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Day 234: The Raue Center | by =Tom=
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Day 234: The Raue Center

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It rained almost all day yesterday so I knew that it would be a good day to take a pic downtown Crystal Lake to get all the vibrant colors that you tend to see after a storm. The clouds were still stirring and if you look closely you can see that it was actually raining pretty steadily when I took this. Good thing the D300 is weather sealed hehe.


Here is a little bit about where I took this picture:


As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor, Lucile Raue, the Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 800-seat theatre, located in historic, downtown Crystal Lake, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination.


Opened in 1929 as El Tovar, the building was a welcome addition to northern Illinois as a movie and vaudeville theatre to showcase the thrilling new “talkies” and the troupers who wheeled into town on tour with their backstage trunks and onstage spangles. The name “El Tovar” was simply a title picked up by one of the theatre’s founders on a trip out west. It was a glamorous name in keeping with that era’s fascination with all things exotic, and did not translate into a Spanish phrase or idiom.


What it did translate into, however, was the site of first kisses, marriage proposals, farewell dates before shipping out, class trips and simply escaping the frustrations of a day. It embraced the golden age of movie musicals, film noir, love stories, comedies, cartoon festivals and adventure serials on Saturday afternoon. Area theatre groups used the theatre for musicals and plays between film showings during the 1960s. Home to the movies for most of its life, El Tovar eventually became The Lake, and then drifted into a spinsterish old age as the downtown Showplace. It was finishing its days as a shabby art house with a sprinkling of viewers.


The stage was becoming unsafe, the dressing rooms in the basement were crumbling, the theatre's walls were flaking, the ceiling was leaking, but the memories of those who had loved the theatre still imbued the air. The genteel old girl was about to experience a renaissance. New life was waiting just around the corner.


Onto this scene came a quiet, but powerful message: Lucile Raue, who had lived and worked most of her life in a four-square block area in downtown Crystal Lake, had left a generous gift for the improvement of downtown Crystal Lake. An advisory group of local citizens and the executor directed a gift from the Raue Family Estate to the Crystal Lake Civic Center Authority. The Estate had made an outright gift to buy the building and $1 million for renovation. Another $500,000 was given in matching incentives.


Now named for its shy benefactor, the “title” would need Raue Center’s new board of directors and staff behind it, guiding it through construction, staffing and planning to actually renovate the theatre into a first-class venue for the visual and performing arts. With Charles River Development Corporation of Crystal Lake leading the way as the general contractor, ground was broken in November 1999. The decision to use local firms and area sub-contractors was an excellent one. Their craftsmanship and ingenuity throughout the almost two year process was invaluable.


In August of 2001, painted, polished and suited in newly upholstered seats dressed in a rich russet color, the grand dame emerged.



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Taken on August 22, 2009