An artistic destination for area residents and theatre lovers beyond, the Raue Center for the Arts opened in 1929 as El Tovar, a vaudeville and movie theatre to showcase “talkies,” a moniker for the then new concept of motion pictures with sound.
The El Tovar name came from one of its founders, who saw it on a trip out West. It sounded exotic and glamorous, and was in keeping with the Spanish-style village depictions that lined the inside of the structure.
During the 1960s, the theatre, located at 26 N. Wiliams St., was used for musicals and plays in between movie showings. Eventually it became the Lake, then the Showplace, all the while deteriorating with age. The stage was becoming unsafe, the walls were flaking, the dressing rooms in the basement were crumbling and the ceiling was leaking.
Then Lucile Raue, who had lived and worked most of her life in a foursquare block area in downtown Crystal Lake, bequeathed a generous gift for the improvement of the city’s downtown. Raue’s estate funded the purchase of the theatre and $1 million to renovate it into a first-class venue for the visual and performing arts. The gift included another $500,000 in matching incentives. In August 2001 – painted, polished and suited in newly upholstered seats – the “grand dame” of Crystal Lake made her comeback.
Today, Raue Center for the Performing Arts, which has been named to the League of Historic American Theatres, is one of the finest examples of restored art deco in the United States, and serves as a glamorous showcase for plays, visual arts, music, arts education and more.
The Raue has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists, including Tony, Academy and Grammy award winners, as well as independent artists and arts-inspired youth.
Raue Center for the Arts | 26 N. Williams St. Crystal Lake, IL 60014 | 815.356.9212