Dedicated to engaging people with history through thoughtful collection, enlightening exhibits, and diverse educational experiences, the Elmhurst History Museum, 120 E Park Ave, will introduce its latest exhibit “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” on Friday, October 6. Honoring the heyday of Chicago area department stores, such as Marshall Field & Co., Carson Pirie Scott, and more, the new exhibition will take guests back in time to learn about the eclectic history of these iconic retailers just in time for the holiday season.

To produce “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores,” the Elmhurst History Museum collaborated with historian and author of Remembering Marshall Field’s and Lost Chicago Department Stores, Leslie Goddard. Through an array of artifacts, images, video, memorabilia, and interactive elements, the exhibit will explore the evolution of the retail industry and brick-and-mortar stores beginning in the late 1800s and share fascinating stories and items from popular city and suburban department stores of the past. Key features of the exhibit will include:

  • Animatronic characters from Marshall Field & Co.’s 2004 Snow White & the Fairest of the Them All holiday windows
  • Fashion displays from Marshall Field & Co., Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Carson Pirie Scott
  • Special holiday items from Chicagoland department stores including Uncle Mistletoe, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, annual branded gifts, and more
  • Interactive displays, from a vintage hat try-on station to a video interview with Marshall Field V
  • A look inside Elmhurst’s own department stores, including Olswang’s, Ruby’s, and The Elm

“We are thrilled to share the history of Chicagoland department stores and to bring a bit of holiday magic to our visitors this year,” said Sarah Cox, Elmhurst History Museum Curator of Exhibits. “Everyone has their own story of visiting a department store, so we hope for the “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” exhibit to prompt fond memories, such as dressing up for lunch in Marshall Field & Co.’s Walnut Room or picking out Christmas gifts from the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs – but also to remind visitors of the importance of shopping small and shopping local when possible.”

Museum guests may also take advantage of special programs inspired by the exhibit through January 2024, from lectures to holiday events for the entire family. A highlight of events includes:

  • Remembering Chicagoland Department Stores Lecture, October 22: Leslie Goddard invites guests to look back at the great department stores that once dominated Chicago area retail, from the grand shopping palaces clustered on State Street to the cozy local stores on suburban main streets. The lecture is $5, or free for members.
  • Lost Chicagoland Department Stores Gallery Talk, November 12: In this free gallery talk, Curator of Exhibits Sarah Cox will lead participants through the “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” exhibit while sharing highlights about the history of Chicago and suburban department stores.
  • Holiday Gift Wrapping Workshop, November 18: Led by Hannah Sundwall, owner and founder of Gift Wrap Boss, participants will learn fundamental professional techniques including seamless wrapping, bow making, and tips on how to wrap oddly-shaped presents. Admission is $10.

“Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” will be on display from October 6, 2023 – January 28, 2024. The Elmhurst History Museum is open to all ages and offers free admission. The museum is open 1 – 5 p.m. Sunday & Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, and closed Monday. For additional information on exhibits or programs, please visit

The “Lost Chicagoland Department Stores” exhibit is sponsored by: Brixmor, Community Bank of Elmhurst, Feze Roofing, Lakeside Bank, Rotary Club of Elmhurst and Storino, Ramello & Durkin Attorneys at Law.