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110 East Main Street - Village Lights Bookstore

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

A stunning example of preservation, the Village Lights Bookstore, a three-story Italianate commercial building along Madison's bustling Main Street, was actually a shoe store according to the 1886 Sanborn Map.

What's a Sanborn Map? Simply put, a Sanborn map is a shortened name for the maps produced by the Sanborn Fire Insurance company. These maps were created to assess fire insurance liability and were made for more than 12,000 cities in the United States between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Today, they are a wealth of information for historical research and preservation because they not only detailed the building's use, but also noted the building materials (e.g., brick, metal roofing, wooden structure, etc.)

(1886 Sanborn Map - Notice the "B & S" notation at 110... it tells those reading the map that the store sells boots and shoes. Also notice the the building housed a telephone exchange on the 3rd floor and rubber stamp factory on the 2nd floor.)

In addition to the Sanborn Maps, archival photographs and period newspapers often provide rich details. In this 1890s photograph of Main Street below a painted sign on the upper western facade advertises Stanton's Boot and Shoe Store.

Photographs of building exteriors are fairly common, but this next photograph showing the store's interior after improvements completed in 1922 is a unique find indeed. Thanks to a newspaper article describing these upgrades, we know the new store interior included a cream colored 'steel' ceiling, newly installed rock maple floor (which is still there today), American Seating Company leather fitting chairs, and floor mirrors. Shelving units filled with shoe boxes line both side walls.

Fun Fact: This building housed a shoe store for nearly a century!

This 1907 newspaper advertisement below provides insight into how such businesses attracted customers. Not unlike many businesses today, C. A. Stanton's Sons invented new terms to describe their expertise and used colorful vivid descriptions of their products to appeal to the public. Notice how the advertisements invites customers to visit the "Shoeists" to try out the new "Selby Shoe" which is billed as the "comliest, daintiest [shoes] that the hand of man can fashion for the feet of women."

Fun Fact: This building housed a shoe store for nearly a century! Check out this newspaper clipping from 1949 celebrating Stanton's 91 years of business. Although the shoe store closed in 1957, the Stanton family owned the building until 1976.

(Notice how the storefront changed between 1858 and 1949. You can see in the picture on the right new plate glass display windows and a large prism glass transom above. Both were very popular 'modern' updates in the early twentieth century.)

Madison on the Silver Screen

Hollywood comes to Madison! Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine filmed the movie "Some Came Running" partly here in Madison on Main Street. Sinatra's exploits while in town fueled local gossip & upheld his reputation as a playboy.

Have you ever stood on a street and had that sense of deja-vu? If you're a vintage movie buff, there may be a very good reason for that feeling! In 1958 this building was transformed into the fictional Frank Hirsh Jewelry store for Vincente Minnelli's film Some Came Running starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine.

The building was temporarily remodeled to become Frank Hirsh, Jeweler, for the movie. Check out these images from the movie set below:

According to local gossip, the silver screen fox and playboy crooner Frank Sinatra fueled many rumors with his "rowdy behavior" while in Madison. One can only imagine the stories! Wouldn't it have been fun to follow this member of the Rat Pack in town!

In this clip, local resident Harry Bump is photographed talking to director Vincente Minelli, husband of Judy Garland and father of Liza Minelli. Vincente directed many award-winning movies including the classic musicals "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Gigi," "The Band Wagon," and "An American in Paris."

Stunning Turnout

The filming of "Some Came Running" was a huge event in Madison. Large crowds would turn out any time filming occurred.

Did you know the film was nominated for several categories for the following Academy Awards? These categories included:

Best Actress: Shirley MacLaine

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Arthur Kennedy

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Martha Hyer

Best Original Song: "To Love and be Loved" music by Jimmy Van Heusen & lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Best Costume Design: Walter Plunkett

Fast-Forward to Today

Today, the owners of Village Lights Bookstore remain committed to preserving the historic fabric of their building. One must simply stroll around inside to admire the historic floors, transoms, and other details. Be sure to look up - the pressed tin ceiling was one of the modern updates placed in the Art Deco period - it remains as impressive today as it did decades ago. While you're there, be sure to support our local business and browse their wonderful selection of books as well. To learn more about this building and the incredible stewardship of the current owners, click here to be directed to their website.

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