Zeigler’s Drug Store

Building History

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.

Zeigler's Drug Circa 1949

Zeigler's Drug Circa 1942

Scope of the Rehabilitation

In 2013, a group of local developers acquired the Zeigler’s Drug Store as well as the vacant buildings that surround it (S.H. Kress Five and Dime Store and The Guaranty Bank Building). After more than a year of planning, this “New Florence Development Group” began the painstakingly slow process of targeted demolition and historic reclamation in order to preserve as much the structures and materials used in the original construction of these buildings. Metal ceiling panels, heart pine boards and hundred year old steel beams were removed, cataloged and stored for repurposing. Elements that could not be reused were documented for replication.

By 2017, pink stucco had been removed from the Zeigler’s Drug Store Building and the original brick facades were completely restored, one piece at a time. The lower level of this corner building had been converted into Town Hall, a 5,800 square foot restaurant featuring locally grown ingredients and a huge wood burning grill. Much of the original materials removed earlier were used by local craftsmen to create the interior spaces of the restaurant including bead board ceilings, hard wood floors, doors, counters and bars.

Today, guests enjoy dinner served on heart pine tables that were originally used by S.H Kress and Rowland Zeigler in their buildings a hundred years earlier. The second level of The Zeigler’s Drug Store Building was converted and now houses a large real estate firm. The arched topped windows and wide expanse glass and mahogany store fronts, which had been replaced or damaged over years past, were either completely restored or replaced. Finally, all exterior cornices, pilasters and masonry were repaired, replaced or cleaned to match their original design.

Before and After Rehabilitation

Move the slider in the image below to swipe between a photo from before construction started and and one following the renovation.

Before Construction After Renovation

Florence Downtown