Now the site of a popular Lowell restaurant, the corner of West Commercial Ave. and Parkview St. was once the location of a blacksmith shop on old "German Hill." In the Lake County Directory of 1909, there is no business listed that year at the old address of 330 West Commercial Ave. But a few years later, a local news item revealed that the John Miller blacksmith shop operated on the site.
John Miller was born west of Lowell at Petersburg, Ill., on Jan. 30, 1888, the son of Christopher and Magdalina (Kolb) Miller. He married Ida Bixeman of Lowell.
A prominent Lowell business man for many years, Miller began his career as a blacksmith, though he soon became a dealer in Studebaker wagons and buggies. In the 1920's Studebaker automobiles were on display in his small showroom.
He also took part in building the "Lowell Truck," a sturdy-looking vehicle with hard rubber tires. One of the Lowell trucks was purchased by Thomas Arnott to deliver furniture from his downtown store. The same truck, as the story goes, was also assembled at Gary, and was called the "Gary Truck."
A disastrous fire destroyed part of his building in the 1920's, but Miller rebuilt and became a well-known Ford automobile dealer from 1927 to 1942, when he retired. He was active in community affairs and also served as a director of the Lowell National Bank. He died Oct. 26, 1960, at the age of 72. His son, Attorney Maurice Miller, now resides in Princeton.
The Miller building was purchased by a Mr. Vogel in the early 1940's, and Walter Martin was the auto dealer there for about two years. Then, Bob Genda was the operator of the Ford dealership from 1949 until the early 1960's. Harrison Snell, founder of Snell Chevrolet, joined Genda's firm as service and parts manager in 1949.
After all those years of housing auto dealerships, the old building was remodeled into a restaurant with an appropriate name, the "Coach House," a popular eatery for a few years. It is now Dante's Restaurant and somewhere within the walls, covered by modern construction, are the steel rings used to tie the horses at John Miller's blacksmith shop many years ago.
In the 1940's John Miller built the building west of Dante's, now occupied by offices and Karen's Beauty Salon. It was originally built as a filling station operated by Bill and Hal Weaver. The large home just behind the building, now facing east, was facing north on Commercial Ave., but was moved back to make room for the filling station.
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Across the street on the north side of Commercial Ave. is the building now occupied by the Belei's Creative Woodworking shop and construction office. This building also had its beginning as a home for a blacksmith early in this century.
William F. Tramm is the earliest known business man located there. He was a skilled blacksmith, wagonmaker, contractor and repair man, and later became an auto mechanic. Born in Washington Hts., Ill., on Mar, 21, 1864, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Tramm.
As a small boy, he moved with his parents to their new home on the prairie about seven miles south of Beecher, Ill. In September 1893, he married Augusta Swettfeager, and they became the parents of two daughters, Gertrude and Helen, who died as infants.
Tramm came to Lowell in 1900 after the death of his wife, and for many years lived alone on the second floor of his shop. The Old Timer remembers his abode as an interesting 'museum,' filled with antiques and old musical instruments.
He was the proud owner of two old motor vehicles, both driven in the early Lowell Labor Day Homecoming parades. The oldest auto was an 1897 "Rambler" with wheels like a bicycle, a one-cylinder engine with a huge flywheel, and was cranked on the side while steered with a lever. It had leather seats and looked very much like a carriage. The Old Timer had the privilege of riding in the vehicle several times.
His other auto was the 1908 Reo, with wooden wheels, a folding top, a steering wheel, and "bench" on the back which Bill Tramm called the "Mother-in-Law seat." Tramm is remembered as a very kind man who was always ready to lend a helping hand. He died Dec. 31, 1936.
Ralph Hudson, World War I military veteran, was a well-known auto repairman in the Tramm building for many years, and like the Miller dealership to the south, dispensed gasoline from a single pump right at the curb. Hudson was a dealer in Nash automobiles.
Later, the building was remodeled into the Sype Pontiac Agency. Charles Sype and his son, Al, were the dealers.
The past two stories in the 'Pioneer History' column concerned three early blacksmith shops on German Hill, and it is interesting to note that a hardware store and a tavern replaced the first one, the second was replaced by an auto garage and a restaurant, and the third also became and auto dealership and is now a woodshop.
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