The Drake now sits in the heart of what was once the "River District" in downtown Burlington. Samuel White erected the first permanent cabin two blocks north of here, where the current bridge overpass parking lot is located. He had been driven across the river by Federal soldiers after trespassing on Indian land. That same year, 1834, he and his brother-in-law laid out the original town named after Burlington, Vermont. In 1838, Iowa was made a territory. Burlington was named the Capital until 1841 when it was moved to Iowa City.
A Burlington history for 1875 lists a community of 25,000 with a university controlled by the Baptist church, three newspapers, 20 churches, several lodges and benevolent societies and excellent schools. The community was well served by railroads from every direction, had a wealth of timber near at hand and large coal deposits to the east and west. It was reported that a promising future had opened for the city.
Drake Hardware was started in 1864 under another name but was incorporated as Drake Hardware in 1899. The business outgrew its premises (117 N. Main St.) and the building where this restaurant is located was erected in 1906. Over the years, Drake Hardware acquired the buildings to the north and south of the restaurant except for the small building on the corner of Washington and Front. These buildings have been used for a hotel, auto repair, manufacturing of buttons, drugs, boxes and a variety of other things. Through the years, Drake Hardware had become one of the top hardware distributors in the Midwest, serving customers from the Appalachians to the Rockies. Drake Hardware ceased doing business in 1980 and the building stood vacant until it was purchased by its current owners in 1983.
A five foot thick rubble stone foundation supports a brick wall that tapers from 36 inches at the base to 14 inches at the top. The interior structure is of post and beam construction using southern white pine, which undoubtedly came from the first cutting of the southern timber belt. The large double doors on the north wall are not original but were built using timbers from the building torn down north of the restaurant. That wood dates back to 1860. The windows behind the bar in the main restaurant come from the old YMCA in Burlington, torn down in 1980. Four windows were used in the restaurant. As you enter the restaurant from the south, you will see a back bar mirror. This dates back to 1890 and came from a tavern in Mediapolis.