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City Beat: Potions, pills at Heritage Square's new Colonial Drug

November 4, 2012 | 11:08 am

A new building opens to the public today at Heritage Square Museum. It's the first structure built on the museum grounds, home to Victorian structures saved from demolition.

But while the building isn't old, its contents are. Colonial Drug is a re-creation of the kind of corner drugstore that is all but extinct nowadays. It features a marble-topped soda fountain and 19th century wooden cabinets, full of medicines, salves and snake-oil concoctions dating back to the late 1800s.

The exhibit is a gift to the museum from the family of George A. Simmons, who luckily couldn't throw anything away. He owned a number of drugstores called Colonial Drug, and opened the first right after World War I on Figueroa Street about a mile from the museum.


In the mid-1930s, many mom-and-pops like his folded when Thrifty Drug Stores swept across Southern California. When other stores shuttered, Simmons bought their inventories at auction -- in huge lots which included many items too old and obscure to sell in his stores. He saved it all -- filling up his basement, a garage and then a second garage built for the overflow. 

When he died in 1974, his sons weren't sure what to do with it all at first. Then they thought of Heritage Square.

In my latest City Beat, I tell the story of George Abraham Simmons. Read it here.

Check out ace photographer Don Bartletti's photos here

And take a look at what you can find on the shelves in the reporter's notebook I sent out on Twitter below: 

-- Nita Lelyveld

Follow City Beat on Twitter at @latimescitybeat and on Facebook. Send ideas for City Beat dispatches to nita.lelyveld@latimes.com.