In the "Pioneer History" column published last month, the West Side Historical Tour ended on Main Street near Liberty Park, "where Cedar Creek once meandered."
This month the tour continues east on Main Street, across the railroad tracks to the site of the dam which held back the waters of Cedar Creek to form a large mill pond. Water pressure powered the 1848 saw mill near the bridge, as well as the first grist mill (1853) on the west side of Mill Street at Jefferson Street (current site of the old Palo Theatre building).
Water from the dam on Main Street ran rapidly down a block-long trough on stilts to power that 1853 grist mill in a frame building.
A wide place in the creek just south of the bridge was the site of the "ole north swimmin' hole" where several generations learned to swim. There was also a "south swimmin' hole" a few hundred feet south of the Oakley Street bridge.
A short distance from the east bank of Cedar Creek (on Main St.) once stood a large manufacturing building, the Dearborn Company of Chicago, makers of household brushes, brooms and feather dusters. The company was in operation there for several decades in the early 1900's, but was forced out of business during the Depression in the 1930's.
The following, written by Melvin Halsted in 1905, tells the story about the mills and the Halsted House (at the northeast corner of Main Street and Halsted Street): "In 1848, I went to where Lowell is now and erected a saw mill on the place where the flour mill now stands [Main Street at the creek, the second grist mill, a three-story brick building built in 1868]. There had already been some work for a saw mill by A.R. Nichols [1837 Lowell pioneer Abram Nichols] and others. O.E. Haskin [Halsted's brother-in-law] and myself made arrangements with A.R. Nichols to buy the mill privileges and land. ['Land' became the first lots in the Town of Lowell.]
"We put up the dam and got the saw mill running the winter of 1848. The next year we burned 400,000 bricks, but as bricks sold slow, we built the first brick house in Lowell. I moved into the house in the spring of 1850." In April of that same spring, he started for California on horseback, then joined a wagon train with a team of oxen and arrived back in Indiana in August with a bankroll.
"Bought Haskin's interest in the property and erected a flouring mill and got it running Jan. 1, 1853 [on Mill Street]."
Halsted mapped out the original Town of Lowell in 1852, the area bounded by Mill Street, Jefferson Street, Clark Street and Main Street, with lots on the north side of Main Street included.
The brick building on the northeast corner of Mill Street and Main Street was built in 1907 as a Presbyterian church. It was built on the site of the brick Baptist Church building erected by Melvin Halsted in 1857 and demolished in 1905. The 1907 building now houses optometric offices.
The current Lowell Town Hall at the northeast corner of Fremont Street and Main Street was built in 1969 as the Lowell Public Library, which moved into a larger building on Commercial Avenue across from Evergreen Park in the eastern section of Lowell in 1993. Library Park is just north of the Town Hall.
To the east of the Town Hall stands a large brick school building built in 1896 to replace an earlier brick school erected in the 1860's on the same site. The 1896 school combined both elementary and high schools until 1915, when a new high school, now part of the Lowell Middle School, was completed. The 1896 school closed in 1956 and is now privately owned after serving for a time as an antique mall.
A large boulder which still stands on the southeast corner of the school ground (on the corner of Main and Union Streets) once held two memorial plaques -- one in memory of Melvin Halsted and one dedicated to Jabez Clark (1837 pioneer). Placed there and dedicated on August 22, 1925, by the Lake County Historical Society, the markers have been missing for decades.
Turning north on Union Street to Michigan Street, and then east to Burnham Street, a nursing home can be seen. The complex is on the site of three former St. Edward Catholic Churches. The first small frame church building was built on Burnham Street in 1870. It was replaced in 1897 by a larger, Gothic-style frame building which faced west on Castle Street, but burned to the ground in 1914. The third building was erected in 1915, with the church below, and a two-room school on the second floor (now the front section of the nursing home). The congregation moved to its new church and school on South Nichols Street in 1958.
Turning south on Burnham Street, to the northeast corner of Burnham and Main Streets, an empty lot now occupies the site of the brick Methodist Church building built in 1870. The structure was sold to the Lutheran Church when the larger Methodist Church was built on Commercial Avenue in 1924.
Continuing south on Burnham Street and nearing Commercial Avenue, the site of the first frame home in the area can be seen on the south side of the highway. In the 1920's a brick basement could still be seen, all that was left of the two-story home and store built by 1837 pioneer Jabez Clark, who was Lowell's first doctor and justice of the peace. The home was also a safe haven for weary travelers.
Turning west on Commercial Avenue, nearing Castle Street, is a large bank building built in 1978 on the site of four homes and the Church of Christ building, erected in 1870. Three of the homes were moved to other sites, and one was torn down. Three churches were built in Lowell that year. The Lowell Church of Christ now has a newer building at 299 North Burr Street.
In the next block west, the 1924 First United Methodist Church can be seen, with changes including the major addition, dedicated earlier in 1999.
West of the church is a Carnegie Library building built for the Lowell Public Library in 1920. It also served for years as the Lowell Town Hall, and is now a private office building.
Close by is Olde Towne Square Park, on land donated by pioneer Jabez Clark in 1856 for a public square. For 26 years the area was called "Senior Citizens Park," then renamed in 1998.
On the corner stands the 25-foot veterans' monument erected by community donations and dedicated in 1905 by then Hoosier Governor James F. Hanly. It featured the names of veterans who served in four wars -- the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. A large circular flower garden is now on the former site of a 100- foot water tower which held thousands of gallons of Lowell's sulphur water.
On the tour of Lowell, many fine homes of several styles can be seen along the way, most restored to their original beauty.
The historical tour will continue next month in the downtown business area.
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