508 N. Milwaukee Avenue - H.B. Eger Building
Built in 1895/96 by H.B. Eger to house his hardware store, when construction was complete, the cornice prominently displayed the owner’s name and construction date. The building was extensively altered in 1963, with a completely new storefront and an aluminum slipcover over the 2nd floor. The cornice was also removed at that time. The building facade was rehabilitated in 1993.The slipcover was removed, the cornice re-built, and the brick was restored. After serving as a hardware store under different owners until the 1960s, this building has been home to three Libertyville restaurants.
Backstory and Context
H. B. Eger built the 508 N. Milwaukee Avenue building for his hardware business just to the north of the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Cook Avenue. The building was built in two sections, with the front half completed in 1896 and the back half in 1906. In 1928, the front of the building was remodeled.
Henry Bernard Eger was born in Glen Haven, Wisconsin (1863), came to Libertyville in 1889 and shortly afterwards was able to establish a business that was prominent for many years. Eger’s opened one year after the Libertyville Fire of 1895 and was the second hardware store in town, in competition with Schanck Hardware. The Libertyville Independent, April 24, 1924, characterized H. B. Eger as honest, hard working, diligent and “the farmer’s friend, because of the faithful service rendered to them.” A wide variety of his light and heavy merchandise was described in The Industrial News, August 14, 1909 including, “household necessities, stoves, furnaces, tinware, plumbing and steam fitting.” “He sells farm machinery, windmills, wagons and buggies. He handles pumps, tanks, paints, oils and glass.” The variety of goods was extensive and certainly unique to the times, compared to the offerings of hardware stores today.
H. B. Eger was also public spirited and served his community well. He was Mayor from 1907-1911, was Fire Chief from 1896-1906 and again from 1908-1912 and served seven terms on the Libertyville Township Board from April 1910 to April 1924. He died April 19, 1924, and all places of business in town were closed during his service.
H. B.’s son Frank took over Eger Hardware shortly before his father's death, but by 1935 he was ready to sell and retire. The new owner, Ernie E. Griffis, became affiliated with Ace Hardware. The Ace logo, red wings of World War I flying aces with gold lettering, “Ace Stores,” was painted above the storefront windows and used in advertising. Griffis retired in 1952 and sold to Paul Hesse who had managed an Ace store in Crystal Lake. In the early 1960s, Paul Hesse purchased Schanck Hardware next door and consolidated the two businesses in the Schanck Building. Ace Hardware left the downtown in 1966 and opened a new expanded Ace store in a larger space at 155 Peterson Road, which is still in operation today. When Paul Hesse died in 1968, his son Paul Hesse III took over management of the store until his own death in 1989.
Since the hardware store departed, the first floor of the building has housed restaurants. First Independence House debuted in the vacant storefront. The restaurant had a soda fountain and party room and served breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. When Independence House closed, Miss Alice’s Restaurant opened. Alice Cartwright Ksiezak, proprietor of Miss Alice’s, came to Libertyville in 1942 from a small Wisconsin town, moved in with her brother and found her first job as a waitress at the Knife and Fork in town. This was the beginning of her legacy in local restaurants that spanned decades. For many years she worked at Joe’s Fireside where she awoke at 3:00 AM to make and pour the coffee she served to customers throughout the day. Her own restaurant, Miss Alice’s, took the place of Independence House in the mid-1970s. She only operated it for about five years, but Alice didn’t give up her restaurant vocation. She spent years at the Liberty Restaurant where she was a waitress and hostess and was known as Miss Alice, the name she adopted for her restaurant.
Miss Alice's continued under new ownership, but kept the name, until 1986 when George and Christine Karahalios opened Townee Square, the current occupant.
Ace Hardware, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/1952/rec/2.
Accessed July 3rd 2020.
Ace Hardware, Illinois Digital Archives .http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/1950/rec/6.Accessed July 3rd 2020.
"50 years, countless smiles 'Miss Alice' the waitress takes - her place in Libertyville lore." Daily Herald April 25th 2001. .
"Regulars know Townee Square's the place for great food, - friends." Daily Herald January 28th 2008. .
Assessment Records: Eger Building - , Illinois Digital Archives. Jhttp://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/8127/rec/8. Accessed June 17th 2020.
MilwaukeeAve508. http://historiclibertyville.com/index.php?project=yes&showonlyp=yes&c=3&p=757. Accessed August 13, 2020.
“Ace Hardware town’s oldest retailer,” Independent Register, April 2, 3, 1986, p. 12, 14, 16
“Libertyville and its varied interests,” The industrial News, Chicago, August 14, 1909, pp. 5-19
“H. B. Eger sells hardware store to his son Frank,” Libertyville Independent, March 27, 1924, p. 1
Mayors of Libertyville 1882 - 1975, author and copyright unknown, Local History File, Cook Memorial Public Library
“Henry B. Eger dies Saturday after long fight,” Libertyville Independent, April 24, 1924, p.1
Libertyville-Mundelein Telephone Directories, 1935 - 1974, Illinois Bell Telephone Co.
Libertyville Township Office, Libertyville Township Board Minutes, April 1910 - April 1924. (Board membership of H. B. Eger verified by township clerk, August 12, 2020)
"Paul Hesse, retail leader, dies at 59." Independent Register, August 8, 1968, p.6.
"Paul M. Hesse III." News Sun, February 6, 1989, Section 2, p.5.
Village of Libertyville. HistoricLibertyville.com.
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Cizek Collection.
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Slides collection.