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Collections Cameo, February 2014

Diorama, Hansen's Children's Shop

This beautiful diorama captures a beloved longtime Lake Forest business like no photograph ever could. Hansen’s Children’s Shop was a clothing store for children and infants run for nearly 50 years by George and Frances Hansen. Store employee Cynthia Prais Dietz created the diorama in the late 1970s as a gift for the Hansens in celebration of their tenth anniversary at the Westminster location. For a long time, it stood in the store’s front window. Mrs. Hansen donated it to the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society in 2001. Lovingly made with wooden frame and furniture, pipe cleaner hangers and tiny fabric scraps, the diorama showcases how Hansen’s transformed clothes shopping into a delightful experience for generations of parents and children.

George “Bump” Hansen Jr., was the son of George Hansen and Johanne Johnson Hansen and grew up in Lake Forest at 304 Noble Avenue. He got his start in business working for D. Leon Wells at Wells & Copithorne Hardware. He married Frances Blazevich, Minnesota native and daughter of Croatian immigrants, in 1941, enlisting shortly thereafter in the Navy.

In 1955, amidst the profusion of youngsters in Lake Forest created by the baby boom, the Hansens realized there was a need in town for a clothing store catering to children. They opened the Young Folk’s Shop at 277 E. Deerpath. George and Frances Hansen worked side by side six days a week to establish their business, and then went in on Sundays to clean and pay the bills. As the store grew, it changed locations, first to 508 N. Western Avenue and then around 1970 to 197 Westminster, the building depicted in the diorama, where it was known as Hansen’s Children’s Shop.

Hansen’s outfitted generations of children and grandchildren, from Lake Forest and surrounding communities, with everything from bibs and snowsuits to jeans and party dresses. Frances Hansen would document some of these milestone events for parents, taking pictures of kids in their new blazers or dresses as they prepared for the first day of school. George Hansen would hand out a brightly-colored balloon to each small child who came into the store. The balloons and the store’s fish tank helped entertain the kids while their parents shopped and made purchases.

The Hansens bolstered the community outside of their store walls as well. George Hansen spearheaded downtown beautification efforts, planting flower boxes outside stores (seen in the diorama) and trees along the streets. He served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, as an usher at First Presbyterian Church, and the City of Lake Forest as alderman, city marshal, and collector. 






Thank you to those who adopted this artifact in December:

Marlene Bonk Van den Heuval

Don and Lori Lennon Lynch

Mary and John Ormsby

Tina Hansen

Mark and Debbie Saran