26 N Williams Street, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

History 2


Our building opened in 1929 as El Tovar, a title simply picked up by one of the theatre’s founders on a trip out west. It became a welcome addition to northern Illinois. As a movie and vaudeville theatre, it showcased the thrilling new “talkies” and the troupes who wheeled into town on tour with their exotic, entertaining gear and costumes.

While the name did not translate into any specific Spanish phrases, it did translate into the site of first kisses, marriage proposals, farewell dates before shipping out, and class trips. People came to simply escape daily frustrations. The theater embraced the golden age of movie musicals, film noir, love stories, comedies, cartoon festivals and adventure serials. During the 1960s, area theatre groups used the theatre for musicals and plays between film showings. El Tovar eventually became The Lake, and then turned into the downtown Showplace, with fewer viewers than in years past.

Architecturally, the building was on its last legs, but the memories of those who had loved the theatre were still present. New life, a renaissance of sorts, was just waiting to flourish. It was at this point that Lucile Raue, who had lived and worked most of her life in a four-square-block area in downtown Crystal Lake, left a generous monetary gift to go towards renovations in downtown Crystal Lake. After extensive review by an advisory group, enough money to completely restore this historic gem was given to the building.

Now named for its shy benefactor, the Raue Center’s rebuilding began. Ground was broken in November 1999 and local craftsmanship took the building through the two-year reconstruction process. In August of 2001, this dame of a building was painted, polished and suited in newly upholstered rich russet seats.

Lucile’s father dreamed of restoring the Raue Center to leave a special and lasting legacy for her family name and many future families. 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. These performances provide people with the unique opportunity to connect with an audience in a truly intimate and exhilarating space. If you’re interested in a historic tour, contact us today at boxoffice@rauecenter.org

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