Gorton Community Center

The gathering place in the heart of our community
where people connect, converse, learn, listen, play & perform.

Our vision: Gorton engages and enriches all generations
through vibrant social experiences and exceptional arts and culture.

Gorton Community Center’s mission is to be the gathering place in the heart of our community where people connect, converse, learn, listen, play and perform. Gorton is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, independent of the city of Lake Forest, that operates to enrich the lives of our communities through cultural arts, education and charitable service.

Gorton presents film, classes and events year-round for all ages. In addition to annual events like the End of Summer Block Party, Dog Day, Safety Town and Kids Only Holiday shop, patrons enjoy both independent and classic cinema, live music, storytelling and family entertainment. Many of these events take place in the John & Nancy Hughes Theater, a 309-seat state of the art theater housed within Gorton, which was most recently renovated in 2015. Classes offered at Gorton include art, theater, cooking, wellness, games, STEM and more.

Gorton is thankful for a long-term use agreement with the City of Lake Forest to be stewards of the 1902 building originally known as the Central School within which Gorton operates. Within this historic building, Gorton also houses nine other nonprofit organization offices, and the Children’s Learning Center, a high-quality early childhood education and daycare that has been in operation for 37 years. Gorton also welcomes people and organizations of all kinds to host their own events onsite.

Gorton relies on the generosity of residents and businesses to help fund all the programs & services offered and are grateful for the support received from our communities.


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.