620-622 N. Milwaukee Avenue
The structure at 620-622 N. Milwaukee Avenue is an amalgamation of two twentieth century buildings. In 1981, the circa 1870 gable front building at 620 was demolished and replaced with the current 2 ½ story building in a neo-Tudor design. It is likely the façade of the neighboring building at 622, built in 1952, was altered at the same time to match the look and feel of the new building. A more recent remodel of the exterior occurred in 2012. Over nearly 150 years, these two lots hosted many businesses: a wagon and blacksmith shop, an upholstery workshop, electrical contractors, a fruit and vegetable store and more.
Backstory and Context
620 N. Milwaukee Avenue
George Merrick, a wagon maker and wheelwright from Maine, constructed a two-story, wood frame wagon shop with a flat above, on this lot in the 1870s. By 1907, the building was in use as an upholstery shop. J.A. Willis, the only upholster listed in the 1905 and 1908 city directories, was likely the proprietor. A boot and shoe store owned by Thomas Russ used the building from about 1911 until his death in 1917.
By 1922, the Titus Bros., founded by electrical contractors Harry and Roy Titus, owned "The Electric Shop" at this location. The company was awarded the contract to install ornamental street lights after Milwaukee Avenue was first paved in 1923. The following year, Titus Bros. purchased the Lake County Bank building on the northwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Cook Avenue and moved the shop there where they were in business for more than 50 years.
After Titus Bros. vacated, Gyda Finstad relocated The Finstad Eat Shoppe to 620 N. Milwaukee Avenue. By 1927, the restaurant had moved into a newly constructed building at 624 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Liberty Radio and Electric Service, later Gibson Radio & Electric Service, offered a full range of electrical appliances from radios and televisions to kitchen appliances to air conditioners. A&E Vacuum sold and serviced vacuum cleaners here in the mid to late 1970s.
A 2 ½ story building with a neo-Tudor design replaced the original 19th-century structure in 1981. Ombudsman Educational Services educated at-risk students in the new building at 620 during the 1990s and the early 2000s. YoFroot frozen yogurt, the most recent enterprise at this location, opened about 2013, but has since closed.
622 N. Milwaukee Avenue
The original one-story building on this spot served as a harness shop and later a lunch room. From the mid-1920s until 1931, a fruit and vegetable market or grocery used this storefront. The Green Front Fruit & Vegetable Store sold berries, bananas, “lemons that will keep”, California cherries, and even “Pine Apple very good”. Prices ranged from 5 cents per cucumber to $1.25 for a bushel of “Potatoes, best with no spots.” The Hanlon & Kennedy grocery took over the business around 1929.
The building stood empty for several months until the state fire marshal ordered repairs be made or the building be demolished in late 1931. The wooden structure had “long been regarded as a fire trap and an eye sore” and Libertyville residents complained about the “tumble down state.” The building was razed in December 1931.
The lot remained free of a permanent structure until 1952, although a temporary, Quonset hut-like shop selling popcorn and ice cream can be seen in a 1938 photograph looking south along Milwaukee Avenue from the Liberty Theatre.
The current two-story building was constructed in 1952. A September 26, 1952 permit application says “moving small store (popcorn stand) to No. Milwaukee Ave.” Perhaps this was the same stand from the 1938 photograph. By the end of the decade, Liberty Furniture had moved in and operated there until about 1963. Briar Realty finished out the 1960s in this location.
Simply Music and Self-Defense Unlimited were tenants at different times in the early and mid-1970s. After Bob Davis retired as owner of The Sportsman shop a few doors to the south in 1993, he then opened and operated Awards & Engraving by Bob Davis at 622 N. Milwaukee. Best Shoe Repair, relocated there about the same year originally sharing the space with Davis. The shoe repair shop closed in 2020.
Building Permits. Village of Libertyville, Building Division.
MilwaukeeAveN620-622. HistoricLibertyville.com. Accessed August 17, 2020.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Sanborn Map Company, Jul, 1897. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01973_001/.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Sanborn Map Company, Aug, 1907. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01973_002/.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1912. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01973_003/.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1924. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01973_004/.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois. Sanborn Map Company, Dec, 1933. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01973_005/.
Looking south on Milwaukee Avenue from Lake Street, Illinois Digital Archives, http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cookmemo11/id/8479/rec/1
Looking south on Milwaukee Avenue from Lake Street, http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cookmemo11/id/8479/rec/8
“The Electric Shop.” Advertisement. Lake County Register, April 4, 1923, p.6.
“Red Hot Specials.” Advertisement. Libertyville Independent, May 24, 1923, p.15.
“Titus Brother Low Bidders-In White Way Plan.” Libertyville Independent, August 16, 1923, p.9.
“Titus Bros. Buy Lake Co. National Bank Building.” Libertyville Independent, March 27, 1924, p.1
“Grand Opening Specials.” Advertisement. Lake County Register, May 3, 1924, p.8.
“The Green Front Fruit and Vegetable House will open…” Lake County Register, April 14, 1923, p.5.
“Trade at the Green Front.” Advertisement. Libertyville Independent May 17, 1923, p5.
“Finstad’s Restaurant to Change Location.” Lake County Register, Novemember 19, 1924, p.1.
City Directory.1925. Ancestry.com
Telephone books. Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.
“Green Front store entered by burglars.” Libertyville Independent March 14, 1929, p.1.
“Old Green Front Building Razed Here.” Independent Register December 17, 1931, p.1.
North End Fruit Market. N. Milwaukee Avenue. Assessment Record, circa 1935. Illinois Digital Archive, http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/cookmemo11/id/8237/rec/1. Accessed August 17, 2020.
Liberty Theatre, Libertyville, Ill., http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cookmemo11/id/121/rec/5
620-622 North Milwaukee Avenue, http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/cookmemo11/id/6668/rec/1
Fischer, Andrea. “Awards & Engaving.” Interview with Bob Davis. March 30, 1994.
Village of Libertyville. HistoricLibertyville.com
Liberytville-Mundelein Historical Society
Liberytville-Mundelein Historical Society. Photo Book 2.
Liberytville-Mundelein Historical Society.
Liberytville-Mundelein Historical Society. Libertyville Township Assessor collection.
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.
Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.