Matched only by the F.K. Robeson Company, W. Lewis Department store was a solid anchor of retail in Downtown for over sixty years. Started by Wolf Lewis, who followed his father and immigrated from Poland in 1897, it began as a small dry good store at 109 North Neil Street called “The Economy”. The stock for this store was so small that most would fit easily on the Neil Street sidewalk. When the business boomed he quickly moved into the neighboring Illinois building that was constructed in 1902. However, on St. Partrick’s Day 1915 the Illinois Building was destroyed in one of Downtown’s most memorable fires. The fire raged so large that it not only destroyed the Illinois but jumped Neil Street and heavily damaged the buildings at 110 - 124 North Neil which survive to this day. Although Wolf’s entire stock was destroyed he persevered and opened the current building less than a year after the fire.
Like many others, W. Lewis and Company finally closed its doors for good in 1967. Today the building is occupied by various offices and owned by Busey Bank.