"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicago's Abandoned Movie Palaces

Chicago magazine recently did a beautiful pictorial exposé on Chicago's great abandoned movie palaces.  The piece, which is introduced by Roger Ebert, displays the interiors of these early movie theaters, showing past glory often muddled by decades of decay.  It wasn't that along ago that crowds of thousands would line up down the street to see the showing of one particular film.  Nowadays, with few exceptions, the multiplexes showing dozens of films throughout the day on dozens of different screens have rendered these architectural masterpieces obsolete of their original purpose.

So what is the purpose of this brief article?  First and foremost, to draw attention to oft-forgotten pieces of Windy City history.  Although these particular buildings are in great disrepair, there are organizations out there fighting for funding to help these structures be restored to their former glory.  If you're interested in supporting a historic Chicago cause, there are opportunities here with these movie palaces. Secondly, there are also many historic theater venues that are still in operation, several of which have been recently restored.  The Logan Theatre (Logan Square), Portage Theater, and Patio Theater (both in Portage Park) show that there is still a place in Chicago for grandiose arts venues.  They serve as anchors to commercial centers and community gathering places.

Although we don't have many images, we'd like to share where these theaters are, and how you can help.  So here are Chicago's abandoned (and hopefully soon-to-be-restored) move palaces.

Uptown Theatre
4816 N. Broadway St.
North Side
Community Area: Uptown
Neighborhood: Uptown
Opened: 1925
Closed: 1981
By Train: Red Line to Lawrence
By Bus: Broadway (36), Lawrence (81)

Lawndale Theatre
4015 W. Roosevelt Rd.
West Side
Community Area: North Lawndale
Neighborhood: Lawndale
Opened: 1927
Closed: 1963
By Train: Blue Line to Pulaski (then 1/2 mile south down Pulaski)
By Bus: Pulaski (53), Roosevelt (12)
To Help: Not sure, unfortunately.  But here's a great website with some pictures and history of the Lawndale Theatre.

Central Park Theatre
3535 W. Roosevelt Rd.
West Side
Community Area: North Lawndale
Neighborhood: Lawndale
Opened: 1917
Closed: 1971
By Train: Pink Line to Central Park (then one mile north up Central Park)
By Bus: Pulaski (82), Roosevelt (12)
To Help: Currently serves as the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ.  Unfortunately they don't have a website either, but here's their Yelp page.  Also, here's a nice article on the history of the theater as well.

Ramova Theatre
3518 S. Halsted St.
South Side
Community Area: Bridgeport
Neighborhood: Bridgeport
Opened: 1929
Closed: 1986
By Train: Orange Line to Halsted (then 1.25 miles south down Halsted)
By Bus: Halsted (8), 35th Street (35)

Avalon (New Regal) Theatre
1645 E. 79th St.
South Side

Community Area: South Chicago
Neighborhood: South Chicago
Opened: 1927
Closed: Late 1970s
By Train: Metra Electic Line to 79th St./Chatham (then 3/4 miles east down 79th)
By Bus: Stony Island (28), South Chicago (30), 79th Street (79)

Chicago's abandoned movie palaces, and their proximity from The Loop

Uptown Theatre (Uptown)
Ramova Theatre (Bridgeport)


  1. Another landmark will soon be resurrected. Be on the lookout

  2. At this time although I may not be able to specify exactly which Chicago landmark it will be, however in either case a revival of many other relics such as the first which has yet to be named will soon follow. What is old will become new again. "There's going to be a resurrection."-Acts 24:15

  3. I'd love to hear that you're talking about St. Boniface...