Nearly a decade ago the Three Creeks Historical Association helped to find old photographs of the Lowell area which were placed in a busy restaurant in the eastern section of town. They were professionally copied, enlarged and neatly framed, but not identified. [2001 Note: In recent years the photographs were moved and proudly displayed at the Lowell Town Hall.]
After proper research and kindly help from Helen McIntire and Bill and Barbara Peterson, this column is devoted to telling the stories about those pictures at McDonald's and also those of the fine collection of early photos now hanging on the walls of the Lowell Chamber of Commerce offices at the southwest corner of East Commercial and Fremont Streets.
The first photo on the west wall of the restaurant is of the Spindler building, circa 1895. The Opera House was upstairs, and it housed the S.M. LaRue general merchandise store as well. Although it survived the big fire of 1898, it later burned down in 1976.
Next is an 1890's picture of the original Monon Depot, showing Fred and Martha Wilder (he was an executive of Swift and Co.), residents of Chicago, Ill., who often came south to visit their daughter, Mrs. John Schneider, at the famous Cumberland Lodge at Oak Grove, north of Schneider.
The carriage could have been from the hunting lodge or from one of several livery stables in Lowell. That old depot building, circa early 1880's, was destroyed by a train wreck in 1952, Lowell's centennial year.
The third picture is of the big fire in downtown Lowell on Oct. 4, 1898, the view being from the present Wall St., looking east on Commercial Ave. Considered arson, the fire burned the frame buildings (one three stories high ) on the north side of the street, with the Dr. Bacon mansion saved by water from the windmill seen at the top of the photo. Water from that windmill ran down the street, where workers soaked sacks and rags to keep the nearly new Spindler Building at the corner of Mill and Commercial Ave. from burning. (It did burn down in 1976.) Buildings on the south side were also scorched in 1898, and a sign that can be seen reads: "Fire Sale."
Next is seen the interior of the first Lowell National Bank building (built 1903) on the south side of Commercial Ave., which until recently was the home of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles license branch. [2001 Note: Now the"Vault," an antiques and gift shop, is located there. People in the picture are identified as James Grant, George Foster, and Maude Childress Keithley. The man in the background, however, has not been identified.]
The fifth picture on the west wall shows the second grist mill erected in Lowell, a three-story building with a modern-looking mansard roof, Built in 1867 on Main St. at the creek, it replaced Halsted's 1853 grist mill, which was on the site of the present machine shop on Mill St. The 1853 mill was moved to a farm, and the 1868 one burned in the early 1900's.
The next picture is that of a threshing crew when it was operating near the Diamond Farm in West Creek Twp. Persons have not been identified.
The last picture on that west wall is of a young man, a horse and a phonograph from the turn of the century. The young man is Leon Bailey, prominent West Creek doctor and farmer, then age 12, with a horse named "Fred," which spent the better part of its life chasing cattle at the Chicago Stock Yards before retirement on the Diamond Farm.
The first group of pictures on the east wall of the restaurant is of area schools. The 1909 photo is of football players from the school building still standing on East Main St. in Lowell, where the elementary classes were on the first floor and the high school above, until 1915 when the high school was moved to what is now the north wing of Lowell Middle School on Oakley Ave. William Morey, the principal shown in the picture, was also Lowell's postmaster for many years.
Below is a photo of a graduation class from Lowell High School in about 1912. One of the graduates is Fern (Pletcher) Bailey. Can you help identify others? [Note: See the copy of the 1912 Lowell High School commencement announcement for the names of the graduates of that year.]
The bottom picture in that group of four frames is of the Lowell High School Band of 1933, including many of the Old Timer's classmates and friends.
With that group there is also a photo of an area county school, which has not yet been identified. Any ideas?
To the north is a fine image of a Victorian farm house, which is said to have been built during the 1880's by Josiah Bailey on property originally owned by his step-father, Reuben Chapman, an early pioneer. Still standing, it has been moved to another location along State Rd. 2 near the Illinois line.
Several other historical photographs, nicely framed and captioned, have recently been placed on the walls of the Lowell Chamber of Commerce Office in the old Lowell Town Hall, built in the 1920's. First is a 1923 picture of the old hotel building on West Commercial, when it was owned by Henry and Mary Heiser. Built in 1860, the building was enlarged about the time of the Civil War, and was called the "Union House." The Old Timer's parents, Fred and Theresa Schmal, were the owners from 1903 to 1916, when it was sold to the Heisers. In those earlier days, people would come to Lowell on the 10 a.m. train, wait at the hotel until noon for a family-style chicken dinner ($1.00), and return to the city on the 4 p.m. train, carrying jugs and bottles of "Nature's Tonic" -- Lowell's sulfur water!
Next is an 1894 picture of what is now a trophy shop and sporting goods store across the street from the old Union House. The sign reads: "M. [Matt] Hoffman, The Red Front." Several later owners used that "Red Front" name on their general stores or groceries, including the Anderson family who lived next door to the east. Through the years, the building housed the Lowell Mercantile Co., W.W. Bartz Meat Market, Lewis Buche Groceries, George Hathaway Grocery, the Hitzeman Haus (owned by Lester and Evelyn Hitzeman), and many others.
The early Lowell Garage and Lowell Tribune (founded 1885) office building on Clark St., now all a part of the remodeled Lowell Tribune offices, is shown next. The sign reads: "Auto Livery," identifying an early car rental office.
Also included is a fine picture of downtown Lowell in the 1930's looking east from Mill St., showing angle parking, ornamental streetlights, and lots of Fords, Dodges and Chevrolets.
Another one shows the J.C. Kenney Implement Shop in 1908, located just east of Cedar Creek on the south side of Commercial Ave., where Weber Wagons and Janesville and McCormick farm implements were sold.
There is an early 1900 photo taken from the bay window of the second floor of the Spindler Building, often call the Opera House, at the northeast corner of Mill and Commmercial, which escaped the big fire of 1898, only to be destroyed by fire in 1976. The old "Stand pipe," the 100-foot water tower which stood on the town square, can plainly be seen as well as the dirt road, the very high curbs, and the old frame buildings on the south side of Commercial Ave.
While enjoying the photographs at the Chamber office, please notice the terrific job of remodeling and decorating accomplished by the Lowell Chamber of Commerce; the old Town Hall never looked so nice.
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