413-15 E. Adams St. fire, 2024

413-15 E. Adams St. the evening of June 19, 2024. The roof and third floor collapsed into the rest of the building during the blaze. (SCHS photo)

Furniture stores occupied the building at 413-15 E. Adams St. for more than 70 of its 121 years in existence. The three-story structure, devastated by a fire on June 19, 2024, was torn down the next day.

Leonard Reisch (1858-1933), a son of brewer Frank Sales Reisch, had the building constructed in 1903.

“The ground is now occupied by two old rickety buildings, but these will soon be razed,” the Illinois State Register reported. “The new building will have a frontage of 41 feet and will be three stories in height. The lower floor will be fitted up for store room purposes and the second and third floors will be fitted for offices or flats.”

The ground floor’s first occupant was Frank Sanford & Co., an Illinois-based chain that sold furniture, stoves and carpets.

The rear of the building awaiting expansion in 1914 (Courtesy State Journal-Register)

In 1914, Sanford’s Springfield manager, William Sullivan (1875-1965), partnered with landlord Reisch to form the Sullivan-Reisch Furniture Co. A couple of months later, they built a 77-foot addition to the rear of the building, doubling its size. They announced the project in the Illinois State Journal.

In speaking of the big addition to be erected, the members of the firm stated that they are badly over crowded in their present store and that much more floor space has become absolutely necessary for the conduct of their business. …

Both members of the firm, William H. Sullivan and Leonard Reisch, talked  very entursiastically yesterday to a representative of this paper, and plainly evidenced their faith in the great commercial future of this city.

They stated that they have every reason to feel optimistic as to furture and are firm believers in a Greater Springfield as the greatest trading center of Central Illinois.

Reisch retired in 1928, and Sullivan-Reisch sold the store to G.A. Ensenberger & Sons of Bloomington (a sale no doubt expedited because Leonard Reisch’s sister, Elizabeth Ensenberger, was the mother of  the Ensenberger sons ).

Ensenberger went out of business in Springfield in 1933, but the Leath furniture chain moved into the renovated store the next April. Leath, with 30 other stores in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, was one of the largest furniture chains in the Midwest.

Drawing of the new Leath Furniture store at 413 E. Adams St., 1934 (SJ-R)

Leath became the 413-15 building’s longest tenant, staying open on Adams Street until 1977. The building then was vacant until Chester and Shirley Skier – locally famous for their homespun TV commercials – opened The Vogue women’s clothing store on the site in 1979.

The Skiers closed the downtown Vogue in 1983, shortly before filing for bankruptcy, and Blue Cross moved its claims office into the ground floor of 413-15 E. Adams. Gateway Foundation, an addiction counseling service, took over the space for a counseling center in 1994.

The building’s last longterm tenant was Elf Shelf Books (and later music). The shop’s first owner, Gary Jones, moved to Adams Street in 2004. John Combs bought the business from Jones in 2016.

Combs had closed up shop only a few weeks before the 2024 fire, but still had inventory stored in the building when the blaze took place. At the height of the fire, he said, “45s (45-rpm records) were blowing down the street.”

Part of the “Pillsburied” installation, 2024 (Pillsbury Project)

Also lost in the fire were artifacts and records collected by the Pillsbury Project, which held a show on the upper floors of the building earlier in 2024. Chris Richmond of the Pillsbury Project issued a statement the day after the blaze.

It is with heavy heart that Moving Pillsbury Forward confirms that the “Pillsburied” exhibit housed at 413 E. Adams in downtown Springfield was lost in a catastrophic fire earlier today. The exhibit included all of the historical artifacts that have been recovered over the past two years from the Pillsbury factory, as well as numerous pieces of art fashioned from material salvaged from the factory. Three tons of artifacts and art were lost in the fire. All of it is irreplaceable.

The exhibit was curated by Robert Mazrim under the auspices of the Moving Pillsbury Forward project. Aside from the historical artifacts, this particular exhibit featured principally the work of Mazrim and the graffiti artist known as “Shock“. Also lost in the fire were historical documents and records from the factory, and new artwork that was recently brought to the site for a planned reopening of the exhibit.

The Pillsburied exhibit was part of a larger art project, supported and facilitated by Moving Pillsbury Forward, which has attempted to salvage and recycle the aesthetic potential of the abandoned factory.

“The project,” Richmond wrote, referring to efforts to redevelop the abandoned Pillsbury baking products plant on Springfield’s northeast side, “continues.”

The fire’s impact on “the Adams family,” a promising flowering of small businesses along the 300 and 400 blocks of East Adams Street, remained to be determined. Café Moxo at 411 E. Adams St., one of the cornerstones of the Adams Family development, shared a wall with the 413-15 building.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we must report that due to the recent fire we are now closed indefinitely until our building has been given the green light to go in and start our assessment of losses,” owners Mark and Shawna Forinash announced the day after the fire.  … Your patience and understanding is invaluable to us during this time.

“Thank You Moxo community, we LOVE you and look forward to serving you again.”

Authorities did not immediately determine the cause of the fire.

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One Response to 413-15 E. Adams St. fire, 2024

  1. Elizabeth Rutherford says:

    We were headed home from the doctor when we were stopped at 5th and Madison. We had no idea what was going on, but we did see a couple of fire trucks.

    My heart goes out to everyone who lost possessions in the fire, especially Moving Pillsbury Forward. Those are things that can never be replaced.

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