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Arbor House History


The first floor of this beautiful Victorian home was home to Crete Creative during a handful of our formative years. It was originally built from 1898 to 1899. Although refurbished inside and out, great care has been taken to maintain the design integrity of its very first owners: a local couple by the name of William and Elizabeth Rohe.

Growing up on a farm in Crete, William and his brother Charles later attended the Illinois College of Pharmacy of Northwestern University. In 1889, the two brothers opened the Rohe Drug Store in a building they purchased together at 1364 Main Street, Crete. Alongside drugs and patent medicines, their store sold wallpaper, paint, watches, clocks, jewelry, silverware, books, cigars, and tobacco, as well as sewing machines. Local students even bought all their school supplies here.


Because the post office mailboxes were moved to the back of their store, he also served as Postmaster of Crete from 1894 to 1897. In 1896, William Rohe became President of the First State Bank of Steger, leaving the drug store to his brother. By 1917, William was elected Mayor of Crete and served until 1923.


During this time, William married a woman named Elisabeth in 1897, and together they had two daughters who were born at home: Helen and Ann. After Ann was born in 1901, they affixed a nameplate above their front door with the letters WEHA, displaying the first initials of each of their names.


William eventually passed away in 1938, and then Elisabeth in 1959 at the age of 96.

weha terrace arbor house.jpg

After Ann graduated from Purdue University in 1923, she taught in school. In 1927, she married Captain Ray Milton at West Point Military Academy, who then earned the rank of Colonel. Ann and their three children, Kent, Carl, and Elisabeth, moved back to her parents’ home while the Colonel was deployed overseas.


Following the death of her husband in 1961, Ann continued to live at 1304 Main, enjoying the company of young teachers who rented the quarters upstairs. She remained very active in various Crete organizations and even hosted the Well Baby Clinic in her home when the Town Hall was not available. In 1965, Ann was named Citizen of the Year by the Crete AMVETS organization.

In 1984, Ann entered into an installment contract with Mary Ann and Keith McLean that allowed her to live in her home until she passed away.  Fortunately, Ann was away visiting her son in 1986 when a fire broke out in her basement on Christmas Eve, damaging interior walls and causing smoke to permeate the house. After several months of work, Ann returned to her home where she passed away in 1991.

The McLeans then became the full owners of this historic home, and later sold it to David Colmar. He subsequently rented it to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Adjacent to the main Crete office, the house provided more office space for additional realtors. 


In 1997, the home became a family residence again when it was purchased by Tim and Susan Fuller. Jeffrey Baranski and his family owned the home from 2011 to 2015. 


When Ken and Terry Mabs purchased the home in 2017, it had been through a mortgage foreclosure and was in very poor condition.  On a very cold day in February 2018 with no heat in the home, the organizers of Crete Creative were scouting out potential places to host the gallery's activities. With Mabs, they were able to see the first-floor interior in the hopes that it could become the new Crete Creative Gallery. And Crete Creative is very thankful that the Mabs’ answer was an enthusiastic YES.   


However, so much work had to be done on the interior and exterior of this remarkable home by Terry and Ken that it took until September 6, 2019 for the Gallery to officially open to the public. Our first exhibition had the theme "Equine: Beauty," and featured the artwork of 17 artists from both Illinois and Indiana.

Many Thanks to the Crete Area Historical Society for the vintage images they have preserved, and for the information on the Arbor house and those who called it home! If you'd like to see what else they have been working on, head on over to their Facebook Page!

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