535-541 N. Milwaukee Avenue - Warren M. Heath and Walrond Buildings
Although appearing to be a single edifice, the Queen Anne style commercial block at 535-541 N. Milwaukee Avenue is actually two buildings. Today (2020), Charles & Minerva and Touche Salon occupy the Warren M. Heath building while Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory occupies the William Walrond Building. Heath, a furniture maker and undertaker, and Walrond, a proprietor of a meat and grocery market, constructed these commercial buildings in 1903, providing additional space for growing, established Libertyville businesses. A bowling alley and billiards room, a department store, a pharmacy, a shoe store, a gift store, and an art gallery are some of the businesses to fill the storefronts over the years.
Backstory and Context
Warren M. Heath Building
Warren M. Heath (1863-1924) succeeded his father, Isaac Heath (1832-1898), as the owner of a furniture store and undertaker’s business established in Libertyville about 1880. Early furniture makers were often undertakers because building caskets was a natural extension of their business. Referred to as a “Napoleon of commerce” by the local paper, in 1903 Heath erected the largest store building in Libertyville at the time. The Queen Anne-style commercial block cost $9000 (a bit over $263,000 in 2020 dollars) and featured a pressed brick front, metal second-story polygonal bays, a corbelled brick cornice, and stone string courses. The store occupied the south part of the building and the north section was home to the post office. Heath served as postmaster from 1897 until 1908.
O.I. Luce (1847-1924), R.C. Higgins (1858-1926) and G.T. Luce (d.1945) purchased the Heath business and building in 1907. The furniture store operated as O.I. Luce & Co. on the south end with a harness shop on the north. In 1908, a bowling alley, billiard room, and barbershop with public baths opened in the basement of the building which at that time had direct access from the street. Brunswick-Balke Collender Co. pool and billiard tables, porcelain tubs, and a stock of cigars, tobaccos, and soft drinks attracted customers. John Lester, future owner of a notions store and Lester’s Tavern, managed the basement businesses. Local harness maker J.W. Cole purchased the bowling alley, billiard hall, baths and the Luce harness shop in 1914.
In 1923, Ray Furniture and Paints (also undertaking) bought out the Luce store expanding their business established in the 400 block of Milwaukee Avenue in 1911. The Ray store moved to the Luce location shortly thereafter and purchased the building three years later. The bowling alley and billiards room still operated in the lower level at that time.
Professional offices, such as those of optometrist Dr. W.W. Diederich, physician Dr. F.H. Martin, and attorney Lyell Morris, used the third floor of the building for the first twenty years. When Ray leased part of the building in 1933 to James Flegelman (1897-1976), a Russian, Jewish immigrant and owner of a dry goods store across the street, the new Flegelman’s Department Store commandeered the basement to provide two floors of shopping. Ray continued the undertaking business in the south end of the building and his furniture business on the second floor. The undertaking business later moved to 120 W. Park Avenue (now Burnett-Dane Funeral Home). The furniture business continued on Milwaukee Avenue until the mid-1940s when Ray retired from the retail business. Flegelman’s then claimed the third floor to become the Libertyville store with the most floor space.
Flegeman’s closed in the late 1950s. Taylor and Seiler Paint and Hobby moved in and utilized the building through the early 1960s. Sayner Floor Covering occupied the basement level during this time. At one point Langworthy’s expanded northward into the building. Over the next 40 years, businesses such as The Music Box, JAMBS Discount Pharmacy and Abby Ames Attic called the Heath building home. Current residents, Touche Salon and Charles & Minerva arrived in 2002 and 2004 respectively.
William Walrond Building
William Walrond (1871-1965) established a meat market in Libertyville in 1893. He constructed the two-story plus basement building at 541 N. Milwaukee Avenue in 1903. When the new grocery store opened it featured “fine woodwork [and] the facilities for carrying on businesses such as modern computing scales, a giant refrigerator, etc…”(Lake County Independent Souvenir Edition, September 25, 1903).
Walrond’s business continued to grow. A rear addition was constructed in 1906 to expand the store’s ice house and refrigeration capabilities. In 1911, Walrond acquired an electric coffee mill and an electric meat grinder. Another rear addition, completed sometime before 1912, added more storage. Galiger Heating Co. operated out of this last addition in the 1950s. Curtis Frame Back Alley Gallery currently occupies the space.
Walrond closed the shop sometime after 1936. Smith Shoes, established by Ray N. Smith (1893-1962) in 1917, remodeled the building and moved from across the street in August 1940. After Smith’s retirement in 1961, his sons, Allen and Gerald, ran the business. Allen passed in 1987. Gerald “Jerry” Smith retired in 1995 ending a forty-five year run for the family-owned business which served multiple generations of Libertyville residents.
When Millennium Art Gallery owner Laurie Towner remodeled the Smith Shoes store for use as an art gallery and school in 1995, she found relics of the Walrond store behind the walls. Workers uncovered a brass latch while demolishing the back wall. Further removal of the wall revealed a wall of oak ice boxes with beveled glass that had been painted over. The ice boxes were removed and bathrooms now occupy that space. Millennium Art Gallery provided display space for local artists as well as art classes for all ages until it closed in 2001. The current occupant, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, opened in 2002.
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