Historic Jewel (Oscos) of Chicago

The Osco half of the Jewel-Osco food and pharmacy chain is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  It started out in 1937 as a single Pay-Less drug store in Rochester, Minnesota and is now a retailing force across the upper Midwest.

So what does this have to do with architecture?  A couple of things.

First, Jewel-Osco, long a facilitator of the urban blight known as the strip mall, has started mending its ways by using more urban- and environmentally-friendly store designs.  Its new store on North Southport got lots of positive press when it opened a couple of years ago.

Jewel-Osco on Southport

The Jewel-Osco store on North Southport

Another reason this is of interest is because Jewel-Osco’s PR company sent us some pictures of historic stores in the Chicagoland area. Some of these architectural styles will surely trigger nostalgia or nausea, depending on how you feel about mid-century modern design.


And as you explore Chicago, veteran architecture buffs sometimes play a game called “Spot the Jewel.”  For a long time, Jewel stores had a very distinctive design and building materials.  Though most of them have been either torn down or repurposed, it is still possible to see the Jewel heritage underneath what is now a Currency Exchange or a liquor store, if you know what to look for.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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