Long-ago drugstores in Libertyville did it all
Lovell's Drugstore was started around 1886 in Libertyville and was in operation for 50 years.
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:17AM
Early drugstores in Libertyville bore family names and did more than provide medicine. Traditional symbols such as the mortar and pestle on the storefront let customers know that compounds could be mixed and medicines dispensed by familiar druggists. In addition, these hometown drugstores were comfortable gathering places where a variety of products and unique services could be found.
Frank B. Lovell was a local druggist who operated his business in the location where Petranek’s is today, at 426 N. Milwaukee Ave. Lovell’s Drugstore was started around 1886 and thrived for 50 years. It was the only business to survive the fire of 1895 that destroyed most of downtown Libertyville. Articles in the Independent Register praised Frank as a family man, citizen and an “upbuilder,” whose progressive establishment was excelled by none in Lake County. Along with the latest scientific medications, Frank sold products such as “toilet articles,” fine cigars, herbal tea and Tutti-Frutti sweets.
Frank was a forward-thinker and planned for the future. He decided to provide Libertyville with the first telephone service at a time when the venture promised little success. In 1897, Frank and partner F. J. Clark used the back room of his drugstore to set up the Lake County Telephone Company. The office contained a switchboard with one operator. Through Lovell’s perseverance the service gradually expanded and succeeded, providing the entire town with an important need.
In 1910 another drug store played a significant role in the development of Libertyville. When the women of the Alpha Club decided to establish the first subscription library in town, space to begin the endeavor was offered by Decker and Bond drugstore. Shelves were built to hold a collection of 180 books and the seed of the Cook Memorial Library was born.
By the 1920s the biggest draw to drugstores was the soda fountain, found in every drugstore in town. Most likely soda fountains flourished because they filled a socialization void caused when bars were closed during Prohibition. Harry Taylor operated his business from 1920 to 1957 at 352 N. Milwaukee in what is now the Public Service Building. The traditional soda fountain with little marble-topped tables and wrought iron chairs enticed passersby with ice cream confections and a secret recipe chocolate sauce. Libertyville resident Phyllis Eggert recalls, “Mr. Taylor was a handsome man and a helpful druggist who we trusted with all of our prescriptions. He had the best ice cream.”
By the 1940s the most popular drugstore in town was Decker and Neville, located at 518 N. Milwaukee Ave., the present site of Eclectic Design Source. Mr. Neville filled prescriptions, but teenagers loved to hang out at the soda fountain managed by Mrs. Neville who chatted, grilled and scooped. “We called her ma,” remembers Mrs. Eggert. Arthur Luebbers was a Libertyville teen at this time who eventually became a pharmacist himself. From the mid- 1970s to 1998 he operated Luebbers , another well-known pharmacy in what is now Green Tree Plaza.
Resourceful, reliable and ready to lend a sympathetic ear, the family-run pharmacy played a supportive role in the care and development of our town.
Arlene Lane and Sonia Schoenfield are members of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society and librarians at the Cook Memorial Public Library. Their monthly column explores historical topics and events local to Libertyville, Mundelein, and Vernon Hills. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org