New “Old” Pharmacy Exhibit Opens at Heritage Square in Pasadena

Colonial Drug Store in Heritage SquareThe corner drug store of the last century, memorialized in films and illustrations, comes vividly back to life in a new exhibit that opened at the Heritage Square Museum in Pasadena on November 3.

Colonial Drug Company, owned and operated by George A. Simmons, was established in Highland Park in 1918 and continued doing business at that location for some sixty years. The business stood as an all -American corner drug store of the last century, replete with soda fountain and compounding drug services. George died in 1974, leaving behind the legacy of Colonial Drug and an extraordinary collection of drug store items from the era.

Brothers Fred and Syd Simmons, who graduated from the USC School of Pharmacy in 1952, decided to memorialize their father’s work by establishing a replica of his drug store at Heritage Square, a living history museum featuring Southern California life from the Civil War to the early 20th Century. The site includes Victorian Era structures, saved from demolition by moving there, that provide a realistic look at 19th Century life. Colonial Drug adds the iconic corner drug store to the experience.

The building used for Colonial Drug is a replica of the original store located on Figueroa Avenue. George Simmons, who served in World War I as a medic, opened the store when he returned from the war. Walking into the Heritage Square Colonial Drug is a unique opportunity to delve into a classic corner drug store with black and white tile floor, dark wood interior fixtures and a marble soda fountain that makes you want a cherry Coke.

At the back of the store sits the glass-enclosed compounding pharmacy, with the ingredients that pharmacists once used to create the medicines that saved lives and eased pain. Additionally, greatly owing to the vast collection of medicines, cosmetics, and sundries of George Simmons, Colonial Drug provides a look at what people bought and how it was packaged. One can easily imagine the sound of the period cash register tallying up a patron’s order.

Surrounding Colonial Drug at Heritage Square is a medicinal plant garden based on the book, “Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West,” by Cecilia Garcia and USC School of Pharmacy Associate Professor James D. Adams.

A video about Colonial Drug is available at http://vimeo.com/37128977. For information on visiting Colonial Drug at Heritage Square, visit http://heritagesquare.org/.