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.
A long-ago dream led by Ben Raue, Lucile’s father, this theatre leaves a special and lasting legacy for her family name and for every family that will enjoy Raue Center. We hope that the Raue family’s dream of having a first class theatre will also become your dream during the many generations that your family will enjoy this exciting building.
Today, Raue Center enthusiastically brings you the opportunity to witness contemporary, vibrant performing arts on a state-of-the-art stage. Throughout the years, Raue Center has welcomed Tony, Academy and Grammy award winners as well as independent voices to its stage with the unique opportunity to connect with an audience in a truly intimate and exhilarating space.
Interested in touring the historic Raue Center For The Arts theatre? Contact us today at email@example.com.