Between 1858 and 1860, the Northeast Railroad Company laid out the Village of Florence. By the mid 1860’s Florence boasted some 700 residents, more than half of whom were railroad employees and families. To support these folks, merchants (many of which were European immigrants) began to construct buildings that would house general stores, bakeries and hotels for the traveling public. Built in 1876, one of the most significant of these buildings lay at the corner of West Evans and North Dargan Streets. With its two story brick facades, arched topped windows and ornate cornices, this building initially housed a general merchandise store operated by James Allen on the first floor. Allen converted the second floor into Florence’s first civic gathering spot. Allen’s Hall as it quickly became known was the home to a local newspaper, the YMCA and Masonic Temple. Several religious and political groups met at Allen’s Hall and it was the scene of weddings and other community celebrations. Most importantly for Florence, civic leaders gathered at Allen’s Hall to organize the push to establish Florence as a newly minted county seat. By the mid 1880’s Allen’s general merchandise store had been converted into Darby’s Drug Store, which was widely known to serve up the “finest ice cream, refreshing sodas and prescriptions filled at all hours, day or night.”
Devastating fires in both 1893 and 1896 gutted much of Florence’s commercial district. Luckily, this corner structure was not completely destroyed. And as the new century approached, a full restoration was complete and Zeigler’s Drug Store was established. Zeigler’s Drug Store would operate continuously at this location for more than 50 years. For more than 30 of those years, Florentine’s would gather each Saturday at Zeigler’s Drug Store to watch and listen to Pete Thornell’s live, Super X radio broadcast on WOLS. As Florence continued to prosper, Woolworth’s Five and Dime would temporarily share part of Zeigler’s Drug Store space until they moved down the block into a larger location. From the 1960’s through the late 1980’s, Zeigler’s Drug Store Building housed various businesses including Emerson’s Jewlery Store as well as several, upscale clothing stores.
Like so many others across America, Florence’s downtown, commercial district fell victim to suburban crawl and the advent of the more modern shopping experience of a mall. Downtown merchants either moved to their businesses to these malls or closed their shops completely. The result was a slow but steady deterioration of the entire downtown, commercial district. The Zeigler’s Drug Store Building was no exception. Tenants rotated in and out of business at this location often times making modifications to the building in order to make it appear more modern. Arched topped windows were replaced with larger, squared off versions. The historic brick facades were covered with bright, pink stucco. Street artists used its walls as a canvas for their urban art. Eventually the building fell into complete disrepair and became vacant.