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The Oldest Drug Store in Town (Part 1)

The name Petranek’s has been on the storefront at 426 N. Milwaukee Avenue since about 1950, but the drug store can trace its lineage back at least 140 years. A drug store has been in business in this same location since the 1870s. Through a series of posts, I will trace the history of the store across several owners, multiple fires, and three buildings, as well as changing times and customer needs.

According to the Petranek’s web site, the store was founded in 1872. I have been able to find sources supporting the business connections back as far as 1876 at this point and hope someday to find the missing link. The earliest confirmed owner was F. Z. Kimball. Frank Zeno Kimball was born July 15, 1851 in Vermont, the son of F.S. Kimball, a farmer, and Sarah Crocker. He attended Norwich University in Northfield, VT and was active in the Military Department, serving as a Cadet-Lieutenant and Adjutant of the Easter Term in 1871. He was commissioned as a captain in the second regiment of the Vermont Volunteer Militia in late 1871 upon the recommendation of the military professor and was the university’s President’s Gold Medalist in 1872.  That same year Kimball arrived in Lake County. There is no record of his activities over the next two years. Then from 1874 to 1876 he taught school before purchasing a drug store (The Past and Present of Lake County, 1877).

Frank and his wife Nellie (nee Stowell, a Libertyville resident since 1871) were married February 2, 1877 and lived above the store. Both Kimball’s store building and the adjacent building were owned by Nellie’s father, Lorenzo Stowell, who purchased the land near the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Sprague Avenue (today’s Cook Avenue) in 1872.

Unfortunately, Frank, Nellie, and their young daughter Blanche (born in 1878) awoke at 3:00am the morning of February 3, 1880 to find the store and their residence in flames. A fire had started in an adjacent building occupied by a meat market and spread to Kimball’s drug store. The upstairs of the meat market had recently become home to a billiard table and rumor had it that it was in use until the early hours of that Monday morning. It was theorized that the fire was started by a dropped cigar stub or pipe ashes igniting kerosene stored near the entrance of the meat market. The fire spread to the drug store and the family just escaped “with their lives, not saving so much as a pair of stockings for their child, and they had no insurance on their property.”13 Mr. Kimball was able to save a small portion of his stock, but his losses were estimated at $1900 (about $43,000 in 2018 money). Kimball was able to relocate to another building and open for business by February 21.

Sometime in 1881, Kimball purchased the lot just south of Sprague Avenue from his father-in-law and construction began on a new building. The new building was completed by January of 1882 at a cost of $8000 (over $180,000 in 2018 dollars).  The new building was “fine brick block, two stories high, sixty-five feet long by forty-six wide.”19 The building offered two storefronts, the second occupied by Parkhurst & Dymond, general merchants. The upper stories offered residential rooms that were “convenient, spacious, and well lighted.”19 By the time the building was ready, Kimball had taken on a partner – Dr. Fremont C. Knight, a native of New York who came to Libertyviille in 1880 after graduating from the medical department of the University of Buffalo. The store was named Kimball & Knight’s. While Knight’s name would later be removed from the store’s name, he became the owner of the building in May 1882. The building became known as Knight’s Block.

Waukegan Weekly Gazette, September 23, 1882, p.1.


Knight’s Block. Libertyville Plat Map, 1885.
Knight’s Block, center, circa 1882-1895. Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.

In addition to the drug store business, both Kimball and Knight were involved in local government. When Libertyville was incorporated as a village in 1882, Dr. Knight was elected to the first board of trustees and F.Z. Kimball as village clerk. Dr. Knight maintained a medical practice in Libertyville, was elected to multiple terms as Lake County coroner, served as president of the Lake County draft board for World War I, was an organizer of the Lake County Tuberculosis Society, and served as a trustee of Victory Memorial Hospital. Kimball wrote a column on Libertyville happenings for the Waukegan Weekly Gazette and both men served as Masters of  Libertyville Masonic Lodge #492.

Frank Zeno Kimball. Courtesy of Libertyville Masonic Lodge #492.
Dr. Fremont C. Knight. Courtesy of Libertyville Masonic Lodge #492.


It is not clear how long the two men were in business together. By 1883, the drug store’s name had changed to F. Z. Kimball & Co. Knight may have relinquished his part in the business or at least become a silent partner, possibly due to demands on his time as the coroner (first elected in 1882).

At some point in the late 1880s, the business passed to Frank B. Lovell. Whether it was before or after F.Z. Kimball’s death on June 7, 1889 is not known. [See Part 2 post for updated information.] Sources indicate that Frank B. Lovell started in business in Libertyville around 1885-1886 or that he moved to Libertyville from his home town of Onarga, IL after his marriage in 1887. He seems to be operating some business by at least May 11, 1889 when William H. Appley notes in his daybook that he paid $5.68 to Lovell against his account. My best guess is that this is the drugs store, but I have not been able to confirm it.

Libertyville Times, August 23, 1883, p.1.
Lake County Independent, December 24, 1894, p. 8.

By the end of the 1880s, the Kimball years had come to an end. The next installment of this series will focus on the years that F.B. Lovell ran the drug store and examine his influence on the development of our community in the late 19th and early 20th century.



  1. Petranek’s Pharmacy advertisement. The Nautilus, 1958. Libertyville High School.
  2. Kimball, Frank Z. The Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois. Chicago, Wm. Le Baron, 1877, p.407.
  3. Libertyville Telephone Directory, 1949, 1950.
  4. “Store Has Rich History.” Independent Register, April 26, 29156, p.11.
  5. 1870 U.S. Census for Libertyville, IL. Accessed December 15, 2017.
  6. 1880 U.S. Census for Libertyville, IL. Accessed December 15, 2017.
  7. Norwich University catalog, 1875. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935. Accessed November 29, 2017.
  8. Norwich University catalog, 1871. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935. Accessed November 29, 2017.
  9. “Vermont Volunteer Militia.” The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, VT), December 25, 1871. p.3.
  10. Francis “Frank” Zeno Kimball. Accessed December 15, 2017.
  11. Frank Z. Kimball and Nellie F. Stowell. Illinois, Marriage Index, 1860-1920. Accessed December 15, 2017.
  12. Deed. Lyman S. Wilson to Lorenzo Stowell. October 21, 1872. Book 50, page 237. Lake County Recorders of Deeds office.
  13. “Many of our citizens will remember…” Green-Mountain Freeman (Montpelier, VT), February 11, 1880, p.3.
  14. “Fire at Libertyville.” Waukegan Weekly Gazette, February 7, 1880, p.3.
  15. “Mr. Stowell’s losses…” Waukegan Weekly Gazette, February 7, 1880, p.2.
  16. Deed. Lorenzo Stowell & Olive Stowell to Frank Z. Kimball. August 27, 1881.
  17. “Death Takes Nellie Kimball.” Independent Register, January 16, 1941, p.1.
  18. “Fremont C. Knight, M.D.” Portrait and Biographical Album of Lake County, Chicago : Lake City Pub., 1891. p. 489-90.
  19. “Building Boom.”  Independent Register, Souvenir Centennial Edition, June 30, 1936, p. 3.
  20. 1901 Waukegan, IL City Directory. Accessed January 6, 2018.
  21. Libertyville Illustrated, Chicago : Kehm, Fietsch & Miller Co. Press, 1897. p. 7.
  22. “Dr. Fremont Knight is Dead.” Herald Examiner, April 30, 1931.
  23. “Dr. F.C. Knight of Waukegan is Taken by Death.” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1, 1931, p.22.
  24. “Death removes a splendid citizen.” Lake County Independent, April 29, 1910, p.5.
  25. “Frank Lovell, The Citizen.” Lake County Independent, May 6, 1910. p.5.
  26. William Henry Appley Diary, Volume 1, 1889-1897. Illinois Digital Archives, Accessed January 6, 2018.
  27. “Frank B. Lovell.” Lake County Independent, September 25, 1903, Special Souvenir Edition, p.4.
  28. “F.Z. Kimball is nicely located…” Waukegan Weekly Gazette, February 21, 1880, p.2.

Categories: Local History

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