We continue the stories about Lowell's downtown business buildings with the history of two built by J.M. Castle. The building listed in 1909 at the old address of 100 W. Commercial Ave., and now addressed 322 E. Commercial is now occupied by Osburn Insurance Co.
It has been used for many enterprises since its construction in about 1890. Castle was the operator of a general store there for many years, and advertised merchandise in the early 'Lowell Tribune.' Daniel Chapman was a butcher there for a time, assisted by his son Albert. Albert was also a nurse, and he once attended a stranger with small pox who was isolated in a tent at Oakland Park.
Edward Berg, a merchant in Lowell for many years, had a men's clothing store there, and he also did dry-cleaning on the back porch with a homemade machine. Edward was the son of Nick Berg, a blacksmith on the west side of town and the old timer's grandfather.
The National Tea Company occupied the building for nearly three decades, closing in about 1950. The Old Timer remembers friendly Harry Gordon, who was the manager for 27 years.
In all, Harry was in retailing in Lowell for almost fifty years, and earlier in those years was part owner and manager of the Red Front General Store, located where Hitzeman's Country Haus is at the present time. He retired from the National Tea Company in 1949, and passed away in 1957 at the age of 78.
Among the occupants that followed were A.B. Hayhurst with the Cardinal grocery; Hoshaw Shoe Sales and Repair, The Lawson Shoe Store, and now the Osburn Insurance office.
The next building west, with the old address of 102 W. Commercial, is now known as 320 E. Commercial and was also built by J.M. Castle. The following is taken from an early newspaper: "The present alley used to be just its width east. J.M.Castle, having acquired a considerable frontage, wished to build a solid front and obtained consent of the town board to move the alley." So, the walkway from Commercial Ave. to the south parking lot was moved a few feet to the west.
The 1909 Directory shows that N.W. Slusser had a barber shop where Babe Tanner is headquarterd now. Slusser maintained a bathtub in the rear for gentlemen to use for their weekly baths.
Victor K. Roberts (1886-1953) had his law office at 320 E. Commercial for nineteen years. He came to Lowell at the age of 17, worked as a baker for George Heilig, continued his education, and graduated from the University of Valparaiso Law School. He practiced law in southern Lake County for more than forty years. His oldest son, Victor J. Roberts, is also a well-known south county attorney. His one son, Charles, has been a Lowell pharmacist for many years, and another son, Paul, is in the insurance business.
Many times during the past years, when the Old Timer needed help in finding facts and stories about our area, he would call on Earle 'Babe' Tanner. Tanner started his barber shop in the Castle building in Jan. 1930 and has been cutting hair and making friends there for over 55 years.
He was also with Wilfred "Bill" Weaver for five years in a barber shop where the gun shop is now located.
Babe is the son of Fred Tanner, and was born in one of the old brick houses on W. Main St. in Lowell. As a teenager, he lived in the house torn down to make room for the present Lowell Post Office at the corner of Washington and Liberty Sts., also the site of the pioneer Nichols cabin.
Fred V. Hayden (1905-1961), who is from an early pioneer family, began his insurance office behind the barber shop in 1932 and stayed there for many years. He was appointed postmaster in Lowell in 1953, serving for eight years. He replaced Hebert A. Loyce, who moved to Florida for the health of his son, Terry.
While Hayden was postmaster, the Town of Lowell received its first home mail delivery on July 1, 1954. Hayden also served as Cedar Creek assessor, and was the township trustee from 1934 to 1942. He sold his insurance agency just before he became postmaster.
At the old address of 104 W. Commercial, now 318 E. Commercial, is part of Castle's second building. There was a smaller frame building there earlier, where Bill Grant had his barber shop before he moved to the north side of Commercial Ave. near Clark St.
For many years, the newer brick building was used by Frank Weakly. As a young man, he worked for his stepfather, Henry Jahrow, and learned the shoemaker's trade. It is likely that the Jahrow shoe shop was located about where early pioneer Jonah Thorn had a hardware store, near the present Roberts Law Office.
For a time, Weakly was the operator of a grocery and restaurant in a frame building where the license bureau is now housed. He sold this business in 1875, later attended Chicago Ophthalmic College, and began a jewelry store in the Castle building.
In 1903, the following appeared in the Lowell Tribune: "Frank L. Weakly, Jeweler, eyes examined for glasses, lenses guaranteed for five years." He also advertised the New Home Sewing Machines. In the 1920's, Frank sold his business to an employee, Neva Dickinson, who later sold the store to Henry Sickinger of Wolcott in 1928.
Among his many talents, Henry Sickinger was a watchmaker and licensed embalmer. The business was moved a few doors west in 1941, was managed for many years by his son, Donavon, and now by his grandson, James A.
The room at 318 E. Commercial has also been occupied by an appliance repair shop, several beauty shops, including one operated by Harriet Clark for many years, a gift shop, an office supply shop and now the Uptown Stylists salon.
The old directory listed the following living in the apartments above these two buildings: J.M. Castle; Sarah Castle and Gwendolin; Mr. and Mrs. Ed Brownell; Mr. and Mrs. F.E. Brownell; Ruth Brownell and Guy Brownell.
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