A trio of buildings in downtown Crystal Lake celebrates its centennial this August.
Days Gone By: 100 Years for Triplets of Williams Street
Mark your calendars for a daylong Triple Centennial Celebration Saturday, August 4 in honor of three iconic buildings in downtown Crystal Lake.
Built in 1912, the buildings still proudly stand side by side at 71, 69 and 67 N. Williams St. Each building bears a striking resemblance to the others in historic photos. Through the years, minor and major exterior alterations have changed the look of the Triplets of Williams Street.
Today the buildings are occupied by three popular and successful businesses: Out of the Box, The Flag Store and Wickham Interiors, whose owners have joined forces to plan a special day of music of the era, silent movies and displays of vintage photos that highlight the history of each building and downtown Crystal Lake. Special sales and discounts will be offered in honor of the centennial.
Severns Building - 71 N. Williams St.
The first building is known as the Severns Building. It was built by pharmacist A.J. Severns, who had operated a pharmacy in Nunda/Crystal Lake for 16 years prior to this location. As was typical of the time, the Severns family lived above the business in the second-floor apartment, which is still in use today.
The entrance to Severns’ first-floor pharmacy was flanked by two large display windows. Above the entrance and windows was prism glass with lettering set in white opal. An early newspaper describes the interior as “finished in solid oak, with quarter-sawn panels. To the left is the tobacco and cigar case. A portion of the south (right) side, has been reserved for the soda fountain. The prescription department is located to the rear. Back of the prescription section is found the doctor’s office, neat and commodious. A speaking tube connects the store with the flat above.”
Some of the original elements from when Severns first built the building, such as oak floors and the tin ceiling are still visible today.
From 1928-1944, the pharmacy was owned by Oscar Althafer, whose business name, Althafer’s Pharmacy, continued on long after he sold the business. In later years, the building was occupied by The Print Shop.
Mary Batson is the current owner of the building, as well as the retail store housed there called Out of the Box, which offers unique gifts and accessories at affordable prices. For additional information, call 815-444-7446 or visit www.outoftheboxstore.com.
Prickett/Raue Hardware Building – 69 N. Williams St.
George H. Prickett was the first owner/occupant of the center building. Prickett ran a hardware store and then a small restaurant known as The Ideal Tea Room at this location. In 1923, Prickett’s building was sold to William J. Sauer, who operated a variety store. During the 1930s, Hornsby’s 5¢ to $1 Store offered discount merchandise at this location.
Prickett’s building is probably best known for its third owner, Lucile Raue, whose family owned the building from 1939 until 1995. Her father, Ben Raue, was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1883 at the age of 17. In 1893, he moved to Nunda/Crystal Lake and operated a jewelry business that later evolved into the Raue Hardware Store. The store closed its doors forever in November 1994 when Lucile Raue passed away. There are no living descendants of Ben Raue and his family, but its legacy in the downtown area lives on through generous monetary contributions from Lucile Raue’s estate. For example, Raue Center For The Arts, on the other side of Williams Street, is a regional showcase theater named for benefactor Lucile Raue.
In 1995, Doug (now deceased) and Edna McCall – close friends of Lucile – purchased the building. The Prickett/Raue Hardware Building has retained nearly all its historic features. The front door still bears the name Raue Hardware. Edna McCall owns and operates The Flag Store and her son John runs Callmark Printing out of the same building. For additional information, call 815-477-3444 or visit www.flagstoreandmore.com.
Prickett/Paine Building – 67 N. Williams
The third building in this trio opened to the public as The Crystal Theatre in October 1912. The screen at the front of the theater was 12 feet, 3 inches wide by 10 feet, 6 inches high. An interior photo of the Crystal Theatre shows a piano up in front (remember, these were silent movies being shown!). The floor was covered with linoleum, and the ceiling was covered in tin. The walls were paneled in gold and green. Admission to the theater was 5 and 10 cents.
The opening shows were “Rock of Ages” and “An Adamless Eden,” accompanied by Dwight Goodwin on the piano and Paul Rosell with trap drum and cymbals. Guy E. Prickett (George’s brother) and C.H. Paine operated the 300-seat movie house until 1917, when stiff competition from neighboring movie houses forced them out of business.
In 1921, William Metropulos bought the building and opened The Crystal Pocket Billiards and Bowling Alleys. Four bowling lanes were installed in the basement of the building. Billiard tables and a bar occupied the main floor. The second floor served as living quarters. In the mid-1950s, Metropulos moved his business around the corner to Brink Street and built today’s Metro Bowl. Lanes 7 through 10 were carefully brought over from the original building and are in operation to this day.
Several years ago, the brick on the front of the Prickett and Paine building was covered with a stucco-type façade, which totally changed the look of the building. Although the exterior has changed, the interior still boasts the original tin ceiling.
Today, the building is owned by Lynne Wickham and houses her business Wickham Interiors, which offers professional interior design services and retail sales. For additional information, call 815-455-6202 or visit www.wickhaminteriors.com.