This tour of Lowell begins downtown at the Hardings, Inc. parking lot, near the site of Melvin Halsted's first log home in Lowell. Halsted settled first in West Creek Township in 1845, gave up farming in 1848 and moved into a deserted cabin "30 rods [495 feet] south of the County Road [now Commercial Ave.] on the bank west of the Monon," according to a story written by Attorney Schuyler Dwyer in 1925.
As Halsted looked east from his cabin door, he could see the stream then called "The Outlet" (now Cedar Creek), recognized the value of the water power, and quickly made plans for a dam and a saw mill (near the bridge on Main Street). His plans also included a village with terrain similar to that of Lowell, Massachusetts, with business houses in the valley and homes on the hills, as well as a grist mill on Mill St.
Looking eastward, tourists can see a brick depot building, no longer used for passengers. It was built soon after the original frame depot (1881) was demolished by the big train wreck in the spring of 1952, Lowell's centennial year.
Behind the American Legion Post #101 building is one of Lowell's oldest business buildings, moved to the Legion grounds before WWII to be used as a Boy Scout hut. It once stood on the northwest corner of Commercial Avenue and Mill Street and for many years was a harness shop. In its last years at that site it became a cream station and is now a storage building.
On the lawn north of the Legion Post Home, a circa 1880 hotel building once stood, torn down in 1963. It housed "Pete's Place" for a time, with Peter Seramur as proprietor. Through the years many other businesses used the building, including the Ciega Hotel, Tanner's Place and John Hepp's Tavern.
A large steam-powered grist mill and elevator once stood nearby between the railroad and Harding Drive. It was the Dubriel-Keilman Company, built in about 1881, when the railroad came to Lowell. It became the Keilman-Kimmet Company before the building was demolished in 1927, a short life for such a strong looking structure with a tall brick chimney (explored by the Old Timer in the 1920's).
The west part of the American Legion Post Home was built early in the 1900's for the Cedar Valley Creamery Company, shippers of milk and cream to Chicago, Illinois, and makers of Cedar Valley Butter. An earlier frame building stood on the same site.
To the south, on the east side of Harding Drive, stands a garage-type building, now a part of the Rieter Automotive Company complex. Erected in the late 1930's as a Lake County Highway Garage, it was built from materials taken from the Grand Theatre building (circa 1905) which once stood on the southeast corner of Jefferson Street and Clark Street, just to the north of The Lowell Tribune office.
The big theatre building, with balcony and box seats, was torn down in 1936. The Rieter buildings south of Oakley are on the site of the old Lowell Stock Yards, the Lowell Truck Company, and the Lowell Roofing Company.
Looking north from Hardings, Inc. parking lot, the land where the present tire store is now was once the site of a wagon scale and grain office for the Love Brothers Company, whose large red hay barn stood along Washington Street, west of the railroad. This barn still exists, having been moved to a site in West Creek Township years ago.
Leaving the parking lot at Hardings, the tour turns west on Commercial Avenue to view what was once called "German Hill," so-called for the many families of German descent living there. The large brown shingled building on the north side, now a rooming house and antique store, stands as one of Lowell's oldest business buildings.
The central part was built in 1860 as a school, but in 1861 additions were made in two directions for a hotel building, with twelve rooms upstairs. It was called "The Union House" during the Civil War, and later the Mee Hotel, the Schmal Hotel, the Heiser Hotel, the Commercial Hotel, and Bower Manor.
Across the street from the old hotel building stands another old business building, for many years housing general stores and grocery stores. It is a trophy shop now.
To the west of the old hotel, the business houses included three blacksmiths: Nick Berg on the site of the present south side banquet room; John Miller, who later sold automobiles in what is now the restaurant building on the corner; and William Tramm on the north side, now a woodworking shop.
Turning south of Parkview Street toward Oakley Avenue visitors soon see an old gate with the letters "O-P," once the Town of Lowell's Oakland Park, and earlier in the 1900's owned by the Lowell Gun Club. The park was sold to the Tri-Creek School Corporation as ground for a new elementary school, the first Oak Hill School, built in 1956. The park was also the site of the Lowell Labor Day Celebration for decades.
Turning west on Oakley Avenue, Lowell Middle School comes into view through the tall trees. It has been remodeled and expanded several times, the older part on the north built in 1914-15 as the third Lowell High School until 1969, when the current high school was erected east of town. (The two other high schools will be featured in the next installment of the tour.)
Turning north on Liberty St., and carefully crossing busy Commercial Ave., tourists can see many of the large homes built by retired farmers and the business owners of Lowell, many from pioneer families. (Several homes were well constructed from barns.)
Continuing north on Liberty St. nearing Washington Street, the present Lowell Post Office is on the site of the pioneer cabin of the Nichols brothers, Horatio and Abram, settlers in 1837. The Nichols Grain Elevator (C.E. Nichols), circa 1900, stood to the east, but was demolished a few years ago.
North of the post office stands the old Lowell Water Works, site of Lowell's first sulphur well (1898) as well as the steam generator for the town's early lighting system.
The remodeled home north of the Lowell Water Works contains the old Bruce School, a one-room building which was moved from the original site west of Lowell on the Bruce farm near Parrish Ave.
For many decades, both sides of Liberty in that same block was the site of the town dump, and to the north of Main Street once stood the Clark Brickyard, a huge complex, including a mansion of clay tile.
We end this part of out tour at peaceful Liberty Park, where Cedar Creek meandered years ago, and will continue next month at the dam on Cedar Creek.
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