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 Center is a hub for arts & culture located in Lake Forest, IL. Housing the John & Nancy Hughes Theater, a state-of-the-art performing arts venue, Gorton provides in-demand events for all ages, including live music, comedy, children’s programs, film festivals, performing arts and community programs. Gorton also offers classes for youth and adults on a variety of topics, as well as summer camps.

Gorton includes Gorton Drama Studio, a multifaceted theater education program, offering training and performance opportunities for all ages, with weekly classes, intensive performance seminars, summer camps, private instruction and more. Gorton also houses the Children’s Learning Center which provides flexible, quality, nurturing educational care for children from 6 weeks through 5 years.

Gorton provides collaborative space for local nonprofits to work and thrive, as well as rents space for life’s important events. Weddings, baby showers, birthdays, fundraisers, corporate meetings and more happen at Gorton every day.

As a private nonprofit organization, Gorton is thankful for and relies on the generosity of area residents and businesses for support. There is something for everyone at Gorton, and we look forward to seeing you soon.


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.