Gorton Center turns 50 in 2024! Join us for a full year of special events celebrating fifty years of serving our community. Check out our calendar, make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter, and follow Gorton on social media for news about celebrations and ways to support our 50th Anniversary.


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.


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 Childcare 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.