About Gorton Community Center

Gorton Community Center: The gathering place in the heart of our community where people connect, converse, learn, listen, play, and perform.

Gorton Community Center is one of only a few privately-funded community centers in the United States and serves as a unique partnership between community volunteers and the City of Lake Forest. Adults and children find quality programs here, from classes, dance, film, performing arts, and day care. The newly renovated John & Nancy Hughes Theater is a state-of-the-art performing arts venue that has become the signature of Gorton Community Center. A new entrance leads visitors into a stunning 309-seat theater with new technology systems, including sound, lights, and projection. The theater offers children, teen, and adults the unforgettable experience of performing on a world-class stage or attending their favorite events. Since 1972, Gorton has been proud to enrich the lives of residents through cultural arts, education and charitable service.

Gorton Community Center, a private nonprofit 501c3 organization, relies on the generosity of area residents and business to support building improvements, programs and services which are offered in the historic building owned by the City of Lake Forest.

Mission & History

Before Gorton came to symbolize “the community’s house,” we had a rich history with deep roots in the community. As a local landmark, Gorton dates to 1901, when it opened as the Central School, Lake Forest’s first consolidated K-12 school. The Gorton building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. This listing is the Nation’s highest honor accorded places of historic and architectural distinction.

The Building

Designed, built and opened as the Central School in 1901, the original building was designed by James Gamble Rogers and remodeled in 1907 by Howard Van Doren Shaw, the designer of Market Square. In 1935, Anderson and Ticknor created an east addition, including the John E. Baggett Auditorium, named for a much admired school superintendent. Ralph Millman oversaw a 1953 renovation of the building. The Stuart Community Room was added in 1985, and the Auditorium was renovated and restored in 1992. The Gorton building was completely renovated in 1999-2001 to bring its users new and improved program space. Included in the renovation were a new Children’s Drop-In Center, Fine Arts Center, Performing Arts Center, Youth Activity Center, and Resident Nonprofit space. In 2014, Gorton’s first floor was renovated through the Community Spirit Transformed Capital Campaign. The theater was renamed the John & Nancy Hughes Theater in honor of the late Lake Forest resident and director, and the Nagel Family Room was named for the generations of Nagel Family members dedicated to service at Gorton. The beloved Stuart Community Room and the Glore Solarium were renovated and provide important space for events and rentals alike.

Provider Relationships

Gorton is honored to serve Kings & Convicts Brewing Company craft beer and Morningside Mountain Vineyards red wine at all events that serve alcohol.

Returns & Exchanges

For classes at Gorton, refunds will only be given up to one week prior to the first class of any session. (The refund period for some classes, which require advanced reservations or purchase of materials, may be more limited.) Cancellations will incur a $5 handling fee for programs costing under $100 and a 10% handling fee for programs with fees of $100 or more. If a class is cancelled due to insufficient enrollment, you will be notified, and a full refund will be given.

There is no refund given for unused film or event tickets.