Yes, there was a large brick building on that busy corner. It was the 1894 "Opera House" building that was purchased from the builder by John M. Castle, a local business man who also owned many other places in downtown Lowell. The building was saved from the disastrous fire of 1898 with help from a bucket brigade and the use of wet sacks. On the east side of the upper floor was the Opera House that was used for many community events and dramas. Living quarters that included a corner tower were to the west of that large hall.
After an exciting historical tour at the Halsted House recently, some questions for the column came to mind. --
Were there pioneer-settlers here in Lowell before Halsted came in 1848? Can any of their first homes still be seen? Any other homes open for tours? Yes, one of the first pioneers to settle in Lowell was John Driscoll, who came in 1835, and soon after he built his first log home near Joe Martin Road and Northview Street . A part of what is now known as Woodland Hills and Hilltop Subdivision was called "Driscoll's Woods" for many decades. His home of hickory logs has been gone for many years.
Pioneer Jabez Clark arrived here in 1837 and moved into a deserted cabin near Main and Mill Streets, but he soon moved to a larger log house to the north on Cedar Creek. In the 1840's the family moved into a larger frame house on the south side of Commercial Avenue at Burnham Street, where they took care of the sick and offered lodging for tired travelers. None of their homes exist today, but this writer saw the ruins of the home near Burnham Street.
Brothers Abram and Horatio Nichols made their claim here in 1836 and built a cabin near the present site of the Lowell Post Office. A big part of lots west of the railroad have been known as the "Nichols addition to the town of Lowell," and many homes are still standing, built by Nichols' descendants.
Yes, there is another home nearby that is open for tours. The Buckley family came from Ireland in 1849 and purchased a soldier's grant to start their farm, now a part of the Buckley Homestead Lake County Park. John Buckley, one of their sons who emigrated from Ireland, built the "Main House" (circa 1858) that is open for tours during special advertised events at the popular park that was donated by the family to the Lake County Parks Department in the 1970's. It is a living history farm with many varied events throughout the year.
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