At one time the now vacant lots on the south side of Commercial Ave., near the Mill St. intersection, were the site of thriving business buildings. Two frame buildings with tall, square fronts, typical of the era, were built about 1875. The names of the builders and the first merchants are not known, but perhaps a reader can provide more intormation.
Abram Callner, mentioned in the July column, owned the building on the east at about the turn of the century. He was known to have a junk shop in the alley and at one time he and his wife, Eleanor, were the managers of a dry goods store about a block east.
Hermoine Thompson Tillman, the last surviving child of pioneers Oliver and Carlinda Surprise, was the operator of a millinery shop at that old frame building. She was born in Lowell and died in New York in 1974 at the age of 105.
Her nephew, Harold Love of Lowell, recalls that she loved to dance and went to square dances at the age of 100. Her grandfather, 1833 pioneer Peter Surprise, was also still dancing at age 100, and boasted that none could keep up with him 'dancing the jig.'
Charles Bird Viant and his wife, Ida Berg Viant, purchased the restaurant business near the intersection from Dewey Childress in 1925. Their establishment was a popular eatery for about two decades. At one time, Bird was manager of the old Grand Theatre that stood on the corner of Jefferson and Clark Sts., just north of the Pilcher Publishing Co. offices.
The theatre building was torn down in October of 1935, and some of the material was used to build a county garage on Globe drive, a building that is now a part of the Globe Roofing complex.
Viant was the grandson of John W. Viant, a Lowell businessman in the 1850's and the builder of a three-story building at the corner of Clark St. and Commercial Ave., destroyed in the big fire of 1898.
Bird was blamed for placing a sarcastic sign at the outskirts of town that read "Drink Nature's Tonic, Lowell's Sulphur Water," probably painted by his sign painter father Fred Viant. Bird worked for a Chicago newspaper for some years, and was Town Marshall of Lowell for four years during World War Two, until his death in June 1945. The Old Timer remembers well the fancy white uniform he wore for special occasions.
A.B. Hayhurst was also the owner of a restaurant in that building, as well as several other locations in the Town of Lowell. He was born in Chicago in 1898, lived in Lowell for thrty-nine years, and then moved to Ft. Wayne, where he died in 1976. He was a veteran of World War I.
Time took its toll, however; the old worn out building was torn down and none has taken its place.
The old building that was to the west of the restaurant also served many different enterprises. It was once the Crown Tavern, owned by Louis Berg, Sr., for about ten years. Berg was one of Lowell's postmasters.
His daughter, Agnes Berg Eich, recalls that the family lived above the tavern for a time, but during the big fire of 1898 lived in the house that was next door to the Lowell Tribune office.
She told how she, a little girl of five, watched with horror as the flames consumed most of the business buildings of the north side of Commercial Ave. She recovered soon enough to join other youngsters afterwards in going through the ashes looking for souvenirs. Her brother, Louis Berg, Jr., also became a Lowell businessman on the north side of Commercial Ave.
For several years, George Kimmet, one of Lowell's busiest businessmen, was the owner of the frame building, and managed a variety store there called "The Fair."
He was born in Bettsville, Ohio, and came to Lowell in 1890 from Tiffin, Ohio. He established a grocery store in a frame building on the present site of the B and G Carpet store, formerly Grant Brothers Department Store.
He also had a department store in 1899, and in the early years of the 1900's started Lowell's first five-and-ten-cent store. He also ran an ice house for a few years.
In 1927, Kimmet retired to his home on Halsted Street and became an ardent gardener on the banks of Cedar Creek.
He married Elizabeth Schutz, and they were the parents of seven children, all graduates of the Lowell High School. During the Lowell Centennial celebration in 1952, he was hailed as the oldest ex-business man, and he claimed then to have been a subscriber of 'The Lowell Tribune' for 67 years. He passed away in 1956 at the age of 91.
Some of the prices in the old 1905 advertisements for the "Fair": Men's work shirts, 25 cents; Overalls, 50 cents; Set of violin strings, 15 cents; Wash tubs, 65 cents; 12 boxes matches for only 10 cents; and your choice of ladies' or men's hose for only 10 cents.
L.W. "Billy" Brown later bought the store and called it "Brown's Bazaar." He was a veteran of World War I, and a well-known businessman in Lowell for many years. He later became assistant manager of the Sears Roebuck and Co store in downtown Lowell.
In 1925 the advertisement for the Bazaar featured brooms for 47 cents; fly swatters for a dime; window shades for 69 cents; kiddies coveralls, 95 cents; and straw hats for everyone at the low price of 15 cents. Brown, who passed away over a year ago, was always very interested in his community and in his church.
The old building housed several kinds of business endeavors later, including a pool hall, a bowling alley and Frick's Recreation Center, before being torn down.
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