519 N. Milwaukee Avenue - M.B. Colby & Co.
M. B. Colby & Co. was one of the earliest businesses to operate in the 519 N. Milwaukee Avenue building which was completed in 1883. W. W. Carroll & Son, another mercantile establishment, followed. Later enterprises included drugstores, a utility service center and an appliance-variety shop. The building was modernized in 1964, remodeled to restore a historic look in 1984 and a two-story rear addition was constructed in 1997. The current tenant is The Tavern, a steakhouse and lounge, which opened in 1983.
Backstory and Context
M.B. Colby & Co., a general store, is the earliest confirmed business occupant of this building. The firm was launched by E. W. Parkhurst and F. P. Dymond about 1882 as Parkhurst & Dymond Mercantile but at a different Milwaukee Avenue location. Mason Bill (M.B.) Colby bought out Parkhurst in 1893, entered into partnership with Dymond, and adopted the name M. B. Colby & Co. Dymond’s wife, Flora, was Colby’s sister, so it appears the brothers-in-law formed a family partnership. Dymond, who was also involved in the Lake County Bank and Lake County Gravel Company, left the management to Colby. M.B. Colby & Co. moved to 519 N. Milwaukee Avenue by 1895.
Colby was lauded in the December 30, 1898 issue of the Lake County Independent as a retailer of “copious stock,” including “household furnishing goods of all description,” sewing machines, a full line of dry goods and a heavy line of groceries “purchased in carload lots.” By 1903, Colby acquired sole ownership and expanded north into the adjacent store doubling his floor space. When the business incorporated the following year, it was renamed The M. B. Colby Mercantile Co.
Turn-of-the-century advertisements boasted that Colby offered stylish silks and dress goods, the best in underwear and hosiery, perfect fitting shoes, as well as good things to eat. The Lake County Independent, September 25, 1903, added the firm “is one of the pioneer establishments of Libertyville,” for it has “blazed the way” and kept “just enough ahead of the times so as to lead the way in every department.” An undated newspaper article of the day described an example of this. One afternoon and evening, shoppers were greeted with music from a phonograph, amazing many customers with their first chance to hear “Wizard Edison’s wonder of the 19th century.”
About 1909, the firm of Corlett & Fredericks purchased the grocery and meat market portion of M.B. Colby Mercantile and ran it out of the storefront at 521 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Colby continued to sell clothing for customers of all ages in the 519 N. Milwaukee Avenue location. W.W. Carroll bought the remaining M.B. Colby Mercantile business in 1911. His retail experience was rooted in many years of employment with the Carson, Pirie Scott Company of Chicago. At the time of purchase, Carroll already owned a general merchandise shop at the south end of town near McKinley and Milwaukee Avenues.
For a time in the 1930s, Langworthy’s was located at 519 N. Milwaukee Avenue, before moving to their longtime home further north on Milwaukee Avenue. In 1941, Miller Drugstore, a Walgreen agency, debuted. Besides the usual drugstore offerings, owner Ralph I. Miller completely remodeled the interior adding “an ultra modern soda fountain and booths upholstered in saffron colored leather.” Petranek’s Drugstore temporarily occupied the building in the mid-1950s when a 1954 fire destroyed their 426 N. Milwaukee Avenue business. Petranek’s stayed in the building until they were able to rebuild and open in their original location in 1956. That same year North Shore Gas became a tenant. They were a branch office of the public utility that distributed natural gas throughout northern Illinois. North Shore Gas also sold gas burning appliances such as kitchen ranges and furnaces.
“Modernization” was in vogue in 1964 when the historic brick facade was slipcovered in panels and the storefront level altered. Ferguson’s appliance store arrived in 1967 advertising sales and service on stereos, Hi-Fis, phonographs and TVs. Although they sold brands of these electronics like RCA and Zenith, Ferguson's also carried toys, records, jewelry and greeting cards. Ferguson’s relocated to Peterson Road in 1978.
Remodeling in the 1980s restored the facade to a look much closer to the original 19th century design. The Tavern in the Town, now known as The Tavern, opened its doors in 1983 and is still in business today.
(Carroll) Langworthy Building - front. Libertyville History, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/8085/rec/2
Growing Up in Libertyville in the Thirties and Forties, A Stroll around Downtown, Part II, Cook Memorial Public Library. http://vitacollections.ca/cmpldnewsindex/300/exhibit/4
Keswick’s Card and Gift Shoppe (Petranek’s Drugs) Libertyville History, 1955, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/1241/rec/5
Langworthy’s and Benstons Food Store, Libertyville History, 1936-1939, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/8507/rec/4
M. B. Colby & Son, Special Souvenir Edition of the Lake County Independent, September 25, 1903, Cook Memorial Public Library, http://vitacollections.ca/cmpldnewsindex/3169725/page/12?n=
“Miller Drug Store, New Local Firm, Announces Grand Opening,” Independent Register, May 5, 1941, p. 1
Milwaukee Avenue Looking North Toward School Street (M. B. Colby Mercantile), Libertyville History, 1910-1919, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/201/rec/2
MilwaukeeAveN519, Historic Libertyville http://www.historiclibertyville.com//index.php?c=3&project=yes&showonlyp=yes&p=766 Village of Libertyville, Libertyville Historic Preservation Commission
“New Retailers Up to the Challenge with Milwaukee Ave. Variety Store,” (Ferguson’s), Independent Register, November 21, 1967, p. 12
North Shore Gas Company, Libertyville History, 1956, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/2031/rec/1
Petranek’s Pharmacy, Libertyville History, 1957, Cook Memorial Public Library, Illinois Digital Archives. http://www.idaillinois.org/digital/collection/cookmemo11/id/2031/rec/1
"Mason B.Colby." Lake County Independent, March 28, 1913, p.5.
Colby Sells Out." Lake County Independent, May 19, 1911, p.5
E. T. Langworthy buys the Carroll store. Libertyville Independent January 26,1928, p. 1
E.H. Corlett Buys Partner's Interest in Store." Libertyville Independent, April 5, 1917, p.1.
Corlett & Fredericks advertisement. Lake County Independent, May 8, 1908, p.5
Woldt, Frederic. "Loosening Up." Naperville Sun, December 14, 200, News Section, p.29.
McCammon, Don. “Board okays $300,000 restaurant bond issue.” Libertyville Review, June 14, 1982, p5.
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. Libertyville Township Assessor collection.
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society