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Libertyville's Historic Milwaukee Avenue
Item 27 of 40

A hardware store anchored this prominent downtown corner for at least 80 years. The circa 1850 Sprague home that originally stood on this corner was moved by G.H. Schanck in order to construct a new building for his expanding hardware business.The Libertyville Fire of 1895 destroyed that wooden building and Schanck's entire stock, but the business survived. The current two-story brick building was constructed before the turn of the 20th century . In addition to the Schanck Hardware store, men's clothing stores, a stationary store, and a music store have occupied the storefront over the years.


  • Schanck Building, circa 2016
  • Original wooden structure, pre-fire
  • Schanck Building, 1930s
  • Schanck Building, 1955
  • Schanck Building remodel, May 1956
  • Capitol Music in Schanck Building, 1984

The Schanck family were among the early Libertyville families. George H. Schanck (pronounced Skank), born just west of Libertyville in 1837, started his hardware and farm implements business here in 1870. Originally on the west side of Milwaukee Avenue, the store was the site of a meeting in October 1878 to discuss bringing train service to downtown Libertyville. George Schanck was chairman of the committee. The first load of freight on the train line in 1880 included a carload of reapers for his store.

Schank purchased property on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue and laid out Schanck’s Addition which included Sprague street (now Cook) from Milwaukee avenue to First Street in 1882. It is likely around that same time that he built a frame, double store building on the northeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Sprague and an implement warehouse in the rear, where he carried the largest stock of hardware and farming implements in Lake County. He also constructed a large grain elevator and opened up a lumber yard.

 

The wooden structure burned down on August 30/31, 1895, when the Great Libertyville Fire broke out in or behind the building. Schanck operated out of temporary quarters until at least July 1897 as the building does not appear on the 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. By 1903, the store was the largest and oldest of its kind in Lake County. Patrons could purchase “builder’s hardware and tools, wire fencing and farming tools and implements of the latest and most approved kinds, wagons, buggies and carriages of the finest rubber tired [sic] and exclusive makes…”

 

Gordon and Lewis Schanck, the sons of George H., took over the business in the early 1900s. The business incorporated as Schanck Hardware Co. in 1915, with Lewis Schanck as president and Ralph “Rafe” W. Bulkley as secretary and managers of the store. From 1946 until 1962, the business was owned by Vance Ray. For much of this time, Schanck Hardware occupied just the north storefront. Men’s clothing stores leased the south store for decades - E.W. Parkhurst’s Twentieth Century Cash Store in the 1910s, Carlson’s in the 1920s and 1930s, Neuman’s in the 1940s, and Thompson’s Store for Men in the 1950s. The second floor served a variety of uses over the years. In 1906, high school classes were housed on the second floor of the building, in a space previously used as a pool hall and bowling alley. Other businesses included Keystone Press and the publishing arm of Arthur F. Sheldon's The Sheldon School. The Sheldon School later moved to the site of what is now the Mundelein Seminary.

 

In the early 1960s, Paul Hesse, operator of the Ace Hardware next door in the Eger Building, purchased Schanck Hardware and consolidated the two businesses in the Schanck Building. Ace Hardware left the downtown in 1966 and opened a new expanded Ace store at 155 Peterson Road, which is still in operation today.   In the late 1960’s and early 1970s, Chandler’s Stationary store was in business at this Milwaukee Avenue location and Capitol Music occupied the building for a time in the 1980s. Currently (2020) Rolland’s Jewelers occupies the first floor of the building.

 

A few architectural changes occurred in the mid and late twentieth century. In spring 1956, the building was cut back from the street five feet to conform to village codes. The façade was remodeled in a more contemporary style and the original paired storefronts with center second-story entrance was replaced with a single storefront. The original Schanck plaque remained on the front of the second floor of the building. Refurbishment in the mid-1990s, including the addition of a fypon (polyurethane product) cornice, returned the building closer to its original look.

Barry, Jenny. The Great Libertyville Fire of 1895, ShelfLife (Cook Memorial Public Library). August 30th 2019. Accessed June 15th 2020. https://shelflife.cooklib.org/2019/08/30/the-great-libertyville-fire-of-1895/.

Barry, Jenny. Stitches in Time: Discovering Libertyville History through the 1889 Union Church Signature Quilt (part 3), ShelfLife (Cook Memorial Public Library). August 24th 2018. Accessed June 15th 2020. https://shelflife.cooklib.org/2018/08/24/stitches-in-time-discovering-libertyville-history-through-the-1889-union-church-signature-quilt-part-3/.

Schanck Building , Illinois Digital Archives. August 20th 2007. Accessed June 16th 2020. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/2024/rec/4.

Arthur Sheldon, Illinois Digital Archives. Accessed July 1st 2020. http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cookmemo11/id/6835/rec/2.

Assessment Records: Schanck Building - Front, Illinois Digital Archives. July 17th 2019. Accessed June 22nd 2020. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/8129/rec/18.

"'Great Fire' Mere Incident in Career of R.W. Bulkley." Independent Register (Libertyville) March 6th 1941, p1.

"Accountant joins Schanck History." Libertyville Herald (Libertyville) January 5th 1977, p1.

"Schanck Hardware Bulding." Independent Register, April 12, 1956, p.1

"Schanck Bros." Lake County Independent, September 25, 1903, Special Souvenir Edition.

"George Schanck" Lake County Independent, September 25, 1903, Special Souvenir Edition.

Telephone books. Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society collection.

Schoefield, Sonia. "Arthur Sheldon." ShelfLife (Cook Memorial Public Library). August 15, 2014. Accessed August 23, 2020. https://shelflife.cooklib.org/2014/08/15/arthur-sheldon/.

Pettengill, Marian. "Schanck Name Ends As Last Male Dies." Indpeendent Register, February 18, 1956, p.9.

"Schanck, George." Lake County Independent, September 24, 1915, p.1.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Village of Libertyville. HistoricLibertyville.com.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Photo Book 2.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Cizek Collection.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Photo Book 2.

Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. Photo Book 2.