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Ye Olde New Canaan: Cody’s Drug Store

In the first installment of our New Canaan history column, we look at Main Street's oldest apothecary.

Long before the days of pricey health insurance and pharmaceutical giants, healthcare was a completely different ballgame. And for that matter, so were pharmacies.

Located on Main Street where Gramophone Video stands today, Cody's Drug Store was built in 1845 and remained there until 1965. While the Cody family didn't own the store until 1918, Cody's Drug Store was the one-stop shop for much more than medicine.

"It was the meeting place of the town," said George Cody, whose grandfather James J. Cody owned the store nearly a century ago. "Before the telephone, people would go there for telegraphs… Generations have grown up knowing Cody's Drug Store."

Cody's Drug Store was certainly a revered historic landmark. When they closed up shop in 1965, the Cody family was contacted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit—both wanted to preserve the store's authentic collection of elixirs and tonics.   

However, the New Canaan Historical Society would come to house the drug store's remarkable assortment of elixirs—including one of the country's largest collections of patent medicines in their original packaging.

For those who need a quick history lesson, patent medicines were billed as cure-all tonics for everything from diabetes to heart disease. Their active ingredients usually consisted of alcohol and narcotics.

"People came back from the Civil War addicted to these tonics, they didn't know what was in them," said Cody.

Many of the remnants from the 19th century store are on display in a section of the historical society dedicated to the drug store. The society built an entire wing to replicate the interior of the historic apothecary.   

But New Canaanites flocked to Cody's Drug Store for much more than medicine and telegraphs. More than a century before Baskin Robbins was serving up sundaes, the drug store was also the place to cure a sweet tooth. Adorned with marble counters and chandeliers, Cody's ice cream parlor was a luxurious place to enjoy a milkshake.

As all good things must come to an end, so did Cody's Drug Store. It was demolished in 1965 to  accommodate the widening of Main Street.

In the years afterward, a few different stores would find a home in the open space. It wasn't until the 1970's that Gramophone Video opened their doors for business, forever sealing a chapter in New Canaan's storied past.  

whitney July 30, 2010 at 08:49 AM
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