The Lowell historical tour continues with the 1920 hardware building, a brick structure which replaced a circa 1860 frame building that housed a harness shop before being moved back to the alley by the stream. Abram Callner was the operator of a "junk" shop in the old square-front building, which for decades was surrounded by old Farm equipment in the alley location.
The present brick store was built by Bernard Carlin, who rented it to Thomas Arnott (1847-1940) for his furniture and upholstery shop. Arnott delivered his goods in a "Lowell" truck, assembled locally. His name can still be seen on some old furniture in the area.
Later, in the 1920's, after Arnott's retirement, Edward Yates and his wife Alice (Walsh) were the owners, continuing on with the furniture business until 1930, when the building was remodeled into a movie theatre.
Forty feet were added to the south, the floor was slanted and many other improvements were made, including a canopy over the sidewalk which featured a lighted sign reading "Ritz."
In 1934 the business was rented to Kurt Laemmle, nephew of Hollywood movie producer Carl Laemmle. The next owners were Patrick and Loretta Byrnes, who ran the Ritz until 1952, when their new building was completed on Mill Street, with the new name of "Palo Theatre" taken from a combination of part of each of first names.
The Mill Street location, also the site of an 1853 grist mill, is now a machine shop. The old Ritz building again became a furniture store until the early 1950's when West Side Hardware moved there, and the name was changed.
To the west of the hardware store stands a building which now houses an antique shop, a specialty store, an investment firm, and a resale shop.
Erected about 1930 on the site of one early frame building, there is a deep hole where a band stand stood on poles next to the side walk. Saturday night band concerts were presented there, the cars and buggies parked in the alley as well as on Commercial Avenue, with horns sounding and people shouting and applauding their approval of the musical renditions.
The building once was home to a meat market, A&P grocery, sweet shop, men's store, variety store and a restaurant. (Remember Trumps and Matt's?)
Another masonry building was built to the west of that complex for a liquor store, and an insurance office moved there in 1972, staying until 1977, when the firm moved to Mill Street. A floral shop was there for a time, and now it is the home of a beauty shop.
The vacant area to the west once was the site of two large frame business buildings, circa 1875. The first one housed a hat shop, Viant's Restaurant, and A.B. Hayhurst's restaurant. In 1898 the other frame structure was the Crown Saloon, and for years it housed a variety store. Many readers can remember when it was a pool hall and bowling alley (duck pins).
Recently housing a tavern, the large brick building near Cedar Creek was known as the "Main Garage," where several automobile dealerships were in business, and even a roller rink (Crystal Roller Rink) operated there for a time. Other businesses there included the Montgomery Ward Catalog store, an antique shop, a record store, a clothing shop, and a sport and gun business. In 1974, when the Tri-Creek School Administration offices were there, a tornado demolished the south part of the building.
The brick garage building replaced an old frame building used for wagon and implement sales, operated for many years by J.C. Kenney, dealer for many of the well-known implement companies of the time.
The implement building sat on the very edge of the stream, and next to it (west) stood a very early frame livery stable which actually hovered over the creek, with its entrance directly on the south side of the Commercial Avenue bridge.
The tall pilings it stood on could still be seen in the 1920's. A story was told that some of the young men of the area asked to rent a rig with a horse that could find its way back to the stable without guidance, so that they could sleep on their way home from a barn dance or a party.
Now the little V-shaped park near the railroad can be seen, but in years gone by it was the site of a watchman's shanty, before crossing gates were installed. A story from 1915 told how the Monon Railroad sponsored the building of a decorative fountain in the park. The seven-foot fountain, with an eagle atop it, was built in memory of Perry Nichols, railroad engineer and later crossing guard, who did much of the landscaping there. Only a foundation can be seen now.
In the short section of Washington Street, from the railroad to Halsted street, once stood two unusual buildings which actually bridged Cedar Creek. The flow of the creek has been changed (in 1955 and 1956) since those buildings were there, for the water then flowed under the bridge on Halsted Street. At the corner of Washington and Halsted Streets, near the bridge, the Beckman Blacksmith Shop stood for years, with the front door on Washington Street. To the west of the blacksmith shop was the Charles Bisig Wagon Shop. As both of these shops straddled the stream, they had trap doors in the floor, and everything was swept down into the water -- everything.
North of the blacksmith shop on Halsted Street once stood a small brick building, used by the town for a jail and a fire house, where an old hook and ladder wagon could still be seen in the 1920's.
A small frame structure once stood on the northwest corner of Commercial Avenue and Halsted Street, where a gun shop was in business in 1875. Sam Petrie, harness maker, moved his business from the Mill Street corner to where the gun shop was, later moved the frame building near his home behind on Halsted Street, and built the brick building now standing there. It was Graves Machine Shop for years, now an antique shop. The old frame building exists on a farm north of Lowell.
The next building east, now a furniture store, the upper window covered with a mansard-styled roof, was built in 1906 for a livery stable, a 38- by-80-foot structure with a hand-powered elevator to carry horses for carriages from floor to floor. A part of the building was used for implement sales.
Later the building housed auto dealerships, a restaurant, an auto parts store and a motorcycle shop. In 1902 a fire threatened the entire block, but it was saved by the new water system.
A one-story brick building, demolished in 1961, once stood east of the present furniture store, used as an auto dealership, bottled gas store and more.
The old frame building, once on the northwest corner of Mill Street and Commercial Avenue, held a harness shop, as mentioned earlier, but was moved to the American Legion Post #101 grounds to make way for the filling station that once stood on the slant across the corner. Before the brick station building was built in 1925, a deep hole could be seen as part of the old race which came from the grist mill to the north. The present auto repair business, built in 1961 on the site, was also a gas station for decades.
Our tour will continue in next month's column with more about the old downtown buildings.
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