Field Trip: Gimbel Corner in Vincennes, Indiana

Information and pictures sent in by Maria Burkett.

318 NE corner of Main and 2nd Streets. Photograph by Maria Burkett.

I went to the very sad town of Vincennes, Indiana a few weeks ago and photographed the buildings here (in the project area) it is located on the corner of Main and N. Second Streets and is called Gimbel Corner. Think Gimbels Department Store from Miracle on 34th Street. Around before Macy’s Department Store, Gimbels is credited with the oldest  Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Old Gimbel Corner, Vincennes, Indiana. Photograph by Maria Burkett

The very first Gimbels opened in Vincennes, Indiana, formed by Adam Gimbel,  a Jewish Bavarian immigrant who started out as a pack-peddler in 1842 and opened the first store as dry goods in 1857.  Gimbel moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and opened a large, successful department store in 1887. In the 1890s, Gimbels grew to Philadelphia and in the early 1900s, to New York City.


Photograph by Maria Burkett.


The short version of the ending is: after merging and being bought by other companies, Gimbels closed in 1987.

You can read more about Gimbels from the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Or at the Department Store Museum blog. The only source with lots of information seems to be the Wikipedia Gimbels article — without citations — does anyone have a good online source for Gimbels history?


Photograph by Eric Fischer on Flickr. Click for original source.

Also, to explore Vincennes, Indiana, check out this flickr set by Eric Fischer. Vincennes seems so sad, but with so much potential, don’t you think? Scan through the photos and you’ll see that there is some kitschy roadside architecture around Vincennes. What a great combination!


11 thoughts on “Field Trip: Gimbel Corner in Vincennes, Indiana

  1. Jane Patton says:

    just and update…the Gimbel building and two other buildings on main street are currently on fire…the buildings are in the process of collasping.

  2. Teri Nash says:

    Sad but true they are gone. They were in terrible shape. I won’t be surprised to hear it is faulty wiring or an old heating unit that caused it. Many of the once beautiful old homes in VIncennes have been purchased by slum lords that rent them to V.U. students but never make any improvements. The building codes must be very poor. I can’t see how it is legal. I have always feared several students will loose their lives to fire in some of these old buildings It seems like Vincennes does have a lot of fires. Praise the Lord no one was injured that I know of tonight.

    • Sam says:

      Interesting for you to say that the buildings were in terrible shape without exploring the buildings and only viewing from the outside…. Lommel spent tens of thousands of dollars bring the buildings back into compliance , you should check your facts…….. The apartment upstairs was in beautiful condition. The building was being tuck-pointed and reconditioned as well as a roof when the fire took it. The antique store on the corner have been completely painted in recarpeting. The windows in Gimbel’s we’re being replaced. New showroom windows were replaced on main street. All the windows in the window store were completely replaced on the upper levels. Just another Vincente and running their mouth without knowledge……

  3. Dan says:

    Please define your use of the word “sad” in context to what? People , weather, old buildings? I am confused a bit that you chose that word. But as a resident, I sort of understand how this could seem to a visitor.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Hi Dan, I used “sad” in reference to loss of the building to the town. And “sad” for anyone to whom this building meant something, resident or not.

      • Judy Stock says:

        Losing any landmark in any town is sad. Vincennes had gone downhill with the building of VU and so many more crimes. I grew up in the neighborhood that was town down for VU. Crime wasn’t bad back in those days and especially compared to today. We had fun in the old neighborhood and VU can’t take away our memories. You noticed VU tore down the poor people’s homes – not the wealthy people’s homes. That is how it always goes. So many people who lived in that area were retired and had their lives disrupted. That is SAD!

  4. Lydia Bargielski says:

    There was one apartment above the Gimbel Corner Store. Mine. I am a VU student but, in contrast to Nash’s above statement, the apartment I lived in was in great shape. I had pictures but my camera was destroyed along with everything else. Inspectors and even the Fire Department said the building was just fine. Wiring and all. Darl Lommel, the former owner, lived in an apartment above the building next door to the store. We were the only two residents.
    His side of the building and the Gimbel Corner store were connected by a large main stairwell. According to the Vincennes Fire Department the fire began behind/in the basement next to the Gimbel Store and spread through the building. I believe it spread so quick because the stairwell provided a tunnel/plenty of dry fuel and air to devour… leading its way to my home.
    I lived alone and was working at Zander’s Coffee Shop a couple of blocks down the street when the fire started. Mayor Yochum said rebuilding is halted due to lack of funds. The city cannot afford to clean up the asbestos and rebuild until donations or grants are awarded. The rubble is currently fenced off sporting a “For Sale” sign by the current owner, Travis Tarrants.
    Lommel left town and wouldn’t have started the fire because there was nothing to be gained. Lommel and I have lost everything. I haven’t left Vincennes because I am determined to finish my Mechanical Drafting degree at Vincennes University but it hurts to see that rubble every day.
    No one knows the real cause of the fire. The Police, Fire Department and Mayor said the cause cannot be determined because the structure was unsafe so they tore it down. I am glad no one was injured but can any one find an answer from a pile of rubble? If anyone could tell me more facts I would greatly appreciate it. I need an answer as to why this happened. What or who caused this?
    Thank you for your help.

  5. Judy Stock says:

    I grew up in Vincennes and my mom bought my school clothes at Gimbel’s and later she worked there. Not only is it sad that Gimbel’s is gone, but not seeing my old neighborhood, because of VU is also sad. I really wished they had kept the street signs in place, so one could go back and remember where they lived. For a town built on history Vincennes is in really sad shape.

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