Abilene in Taylor County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
Site of Thornton’s Store
Known throughout West Texas as “a city within itself,” Thornton’s Store was one of Abilene’s leading businesses for nearly seven decades. E.L. Thornton (1896-1964) moved to Abilene from Arkansas in 1919, after service in World War I. He opened a fruit stand in 1919, followed by a grocery store in 1920. Joined by his two brothers, Thornton soon expanded his business. In 1925 he added dry goods, followed by a drug store and a feed store in 1929. Radio and refrigeration departments were added in 1931.
By 1937 Thornton’s filled an entire block of Oak Street, adding a café, a beauty shop, and shoe department. In 1941 a franchise for selling new Studebaker cars was added. The one-story properties were renovated in 1947 into a four-story structure of more than 100,000 square feet. Thornton’s was famous for its Christmas displays. In 1959 the largest fire in Abilene’s gutted the Thornton property. Reconstruction began at once.
After the deaths of E.L. Thornton in 1964 and his son Charles Eugene Thornton in 1965, surviving family members sold their interests to a chain store based in St. Louis. Thornton’s continued in business
Erected 1996 by Texas Historical Commission. (Marker Number 4900.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1919.
Location. 32° 26.714′ N, 99° 43.961′ W. Marker is in Abilene, Texas, in Taylor County. Marker is at the intersection of Oak Street and South 4th Street, on the right when traveling north on Oak Street. The marker is located next to the sidewalk at the southeast corner of the intersection. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Abilene TX 79602, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 45th Infantry Division at Camp Barkeley (within shouting distance of this marker); "I Shall Never Surrender or Retreat" (within shouting distance of this marker); Honoring E Battery Lost Battalion WWII (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Taylor County Veterans Memorial (about 600 feet away); Site of Curfew by John J. Clinton (approx. ¼ mile away); The Texas & Pacific Railway (approx. 0.3 miles away); First Presbyterian Church (approx. 0.3 miles away); Pine Street Shootout (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Abilene.
Regarding Site of Thornton’s Store. The Thornton's store building was built in the early 1960s and was renovated
1. Remembrances about Thornton's Department Stores in Abilene, Texas
I worked in the Record Shop at the 4th & Oak Store for about a year beginning in 1957 after graduating from Abilene High School. It was a great place to work. I was born and raised in Taylor County, Texas-born in the City of Abilene itself but raised in the country.
My father was a Cotton Farmer and as some might know, farmers do not have ready money all year around. E. L. Thornton carried many farmers there in Taylor and surrounding counties. When the crops came in the farmers came in and paid what they owed. I remember the Thornton brothers very well and also their mother. I had already moved on to another job when the store burned down. It was such a tragic thing to happen.
One other remembrance was about E. L. and Gene Thornton’s mother. She came into the store many times and if no one told you, no one knew that she was E. L. and Gene Thornton's mother. She was just a nice unassuming little old lady.
— Submitted August 11, 2021, by Mary Beth Marchant of Ocoee, Florida.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on December 18, 2014, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 594 times since then and 86 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on December 18, 2014, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.