Springfield, MO

The Historic Springfield Public Square showcases old venues like the Gillioz Theatre and repurposed old buildings

CJ Coombs

Park Central Square in downtown Springfield, Missouri with Landers Building in the background..The original uploader was Joelfun at English Wikipedia., FAL, via Wikimedia Commons.

The first time I visited Springfield Public Square (aka Park Central Square), I went to a small coffee nook inside a corner building with the smell of good coffee and the best raspberry crisp. That was over a decade ago.

In 2006, the historic public square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). In 2010, a boundary extension was added. As history wrapped the square, some of the buildings were separately wrapped as well. In other words, some buildings within the historic district were also listed on the NRHP.

Springfield Public Square Historic District

This district is also designated as a national historic district. Sometimes not all buildings in a historic district contribute toward that distinction. In this historic district, there are examples of commercial architecture that developed between 1890 and 1959. Listed below are some of the buildings included.

  • Public Square (c. 1835, 1970)
  • Springfield Cigar Company (c. 1890)
  • Stancill Drug Store (c. 1890)
  • Salvation Army (c. 1890)
  • Frisco Office Building (1910)
  • Queen City Bank (1914)
  • Landers Building (1915)
  • Cantrell Building (c. 1927)
  • J.J. Newberry Co. (1951)
  • National Shirt Co. (c. 1952)
  • S. S. Kresge Co. (1953)
  • F. W. Woolworth Co. (1954)

While in the historic district, the following are also separately listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Franklin Springfield Motor Co. Building, Gillioz Theatre, Heer's Department Store, Netter-Ullman Building, and Marx-Hurlburt Building.

Franklin Springfield Motor Co. Building

Franklin Springfield Motor Co. Building, 312-314 E. Olive St. in Springfield.Joseph Bulger, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Franklin Springfield Motor Co. pictured above is located in the Springfield Public Square Historic District. In 2006, it was listed on the NRHP. This historic showroom was also known by other names--Proctor Motor Co., Indiana Trucks, Inc., and The White Motor Co. It was constructed around 1891 and renovated in 1925. In 1941, the building was used as a service center for 30 years by Montgomery Ward.

Gillioz Theatre

The Gillioz Theater is also located on the Square. It was added to the NRHC in 1991. M.E.Gillioz from Monett, Missouri, built the theatre.

Old Gillioz Theater on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri.AbeEzekowitz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, since Gillioz was in the bridge building business, the theatre was made of steel and concrete. This theatre opened in October 1926 and had its last show in 1980. Back in the day, the theatre showed silent movies and had a stage for live performances. It also had a Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ for music and sound effects. When the theatre closed, the organ was sold in 1980 to a private owner.

The theatre is chiefly a concert venue now. The Gallery located on the second floor is used for special events.

Buildings of note include the Lander Building, which is the largest intact historic office building in downtown Springfield, and the Springfield Cigar Company Building, the only reasonably intact 19th century commercial building left on the square today. (Source.)

Heer's Department Store

Heer’s Department Store was constructed in 1915. It is seven stories tall and had a two-story addition built in 1951. In 1967, it was remodeled. Although the store closed in 1995, this building was listed on the NRHP in 2002.

Old Heer's Department Store on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri.AbeEzekowitz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The building has been repurposed into apartments called Heers Luxury Living. It has a rooftop terrace and overlooks the square.

The Netter-Ullman Building

The Netter-Ullman Building was constructed in 1913. It consists of three stories and is a red brick commercial building. Some of its features are made of limestone.

The Netter-Ullman Building.Joseph Bulger, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This building was added to the NRHP in 2003. Today, it is a repurposed business called Dublin's Pass Irish Pub - American Eatery. Another building was saved.

The buildings on the lots in the Public Square are all commercial. There was a construction boom after the war, and the Woolworth's Building built in 1954 was the last building to go up that was part of that boom. The only building that went up after that was located on the east side of the square in the 1970s.

During the 1950s, some of the businesses had renovations performed. With shopping centers going up, however, some of the smaller businesses on the square were losing business which meant lower sales. Buildings became vacant. Since the square was a commercial district, the city had to come up with a plan to revitalize the area.

Today, decades later, the area includes restaurants, lofts, and entertainment. Click here to read Park Central Square: The Real Story--The Design Process, as Remembered by George McLaughlin. This interesting read details the design planning associated with the public square area in Springfield and the firm retained to work on the project.

Thank you for reading. Keeping history alive.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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