Comments from SPearce

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SPearce
SPearce commented about De Luxe Theatre on Jan 14, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I appreciate your effort to bring attention back to discussing the theater itself. I meant no harm, and apologize. Some of your questions were addressed in Feb. 2008.

I do remember the four lines on the side of the marquee as I would read them as I walked east on Wilson to go to work. I recall the many glass posters and the ticket taker about 10' inside. That made me think that the front 10 feet might have been open to the street earlier, and that maybe there was extra insulation back along the walls. I always noted how silent it was inside from street noise until one came close to exiting the front doors. I thought you had “north” and “south” reversed. I would have walked north into the theater, the concession stand, as I recall, was on the left, but I may be wrong about that. I know one zigged to the left and the corridor became more narrow. I recall the chandeliers. It was surprisingly elegant for the street in the early ‘60s.

I recall seeing a number of competitive westerns there in the early ‘60s which surprised me. But that was covered in discussion above. I also remember the two levels of “L” tracks simply because when I worked downtown after high school and came home on the “L,” Wilson was my stop. This was my commercial neighborhood and I was just sharing for that time period. I was always hoping people might remember more about it from earlier decades, but we do the best we can. The persons who worked in the DeLuxe were also rather nice; it was not a rowdy theater either when I attended.

It was just triggering memories; and I will try to restrain on these posts in the future.

SPearce
SPearce commented about De Luxe Theatre on Jan 13, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Thank you Lts and KenC. A friend asked me to visit their relative with them one time at that hotel. It was utilitarian clean inside (I guess it had to be) but my recollection is that there was an open entrance from the hotel lobby into “The Wooden Nickel.” The renters could go to the bar without walking outside, and most were alcoholics on state aid, was my impression, and/or had been in state hospitals. The equivalent of federal Medicaid, I guess. I would hope that such set-ups are not in play anymore. Renters tended to just pass away there, so it was not uncommon to see police and ambulances parked in front of the hotel and under the L tracks.

The restaurant in the McJunkin Bldg. at Broadway and Wilson was packed always, something of a glorified coffee shop until it closed on its own about 1960. I can’t remember its name, but it kept the intersection lively and I think many customers also came in before and after going to the neighborhood cinemas.

I was glad to hear I may have been too hard on the Uptown neighborhood in my coments though I drove all over the area twice last April as that was my neighborhood from 1959 to about 1966-67. I am glad to see the Starbucks and other establishments that are shoring it up and some buildings still active. Too bad about the independent restaurants not holding on. Some of it is nostalgia on my part; everyone I knew is gone, but we all age – it has to be this way. I wish younger persons would blog on this site while they remember details.

I had heard there was race conflict for a decade or two afterward in the Uptown area. It seems there are plenty of persons now keeping a watchful eye on “community” and “neighborhood” and trying to save whatever “marble” and “terra cotta” is there or to be unearthed.

The 1950s were so quiet – no one did much about the deterioration or downturns they witnessed, except move out of the neighborhood. Maybe that has changed as people understand they must speak up to protect their interests even as to private commercial venues. Many people moved to Florida and also this was where the seasonal workers from West VA congregated then returned to their homestate regularly; I would think there are memories amongst residents in those parts
to this neighborhood and the Deluxe, but how to recruit them for this website, I don’t know.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Jan 7, 2009 at 4:03 am

I was trying to remember the name of the “Rowland” Funeral Home not long ago, as I attended a visitation for a close family friend there. I think I remember the “pool(s) to the west too. Between Ashland and Paulina was a 2 or 3 story private garage that probably had an interesting history, but I can’t remember the name of it,

Was it Buena Memorial Presbyterian Church with its parapet type entrance where Broadway and Sheridan almost crossed? I attended there in early ‘60s; understood the tower collapsed or something. It was an imposing structure but the parishioners were fading fast even then. St. Mary of the Lake is beautiful also.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on Dec 7, 2008 at 6:09 am

My theory is if political thinking takes America back to considering WPA endeavors that neighborhoods that lost their sense of design with overlays of modernism where it didn’t fit might have a reintroduction of a sense of continuity in style by building owners allowing artisans and artists to reintroduce some continuity with the past. The streets nearby, i.e., Fremont, have been gentrified so nicely; it would be lovely to see something done with Broadway between Grace and Sheridan Rd., and even that monstrous building on Grace. Some areas along Broadway are so nice and Chicago certainly has more than its share of creative artists and artisans; that would be a nice starting point.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Calo Theatre on Nov 20, 2008 at 2:46 pm

It appears to be pleading for consideration and renovation.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Calo Theatre on Sep 12, 2008 at 3:30 am

Thank you, David; your description helps me to recall the interior of the Calo now. It seems I walked through it once out of curiosity but it would have been no later than 1970, or maybe on a trip back but no later than early late ‘70s-early '80s at the latest, and I don’t think it was a theater then.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on May 8, 2008 at 5:51 am

I lived next to L tracks at one time too (Webster near Sheffield over a Chinese laundry and German restaurant), and know what you mean about the noise and the rumbling of the walls. Visited Chicago’s north side last week, and now realize how Sheridan Rd. comes west above Grace St., then turns north; I was thinking it was Irving Park Rd there and that confused me. The gentrification of the Sheridan Rd. and Irving Park Rd. area was impressive – in fact, most of the north side along Broadway and Clark (except for Uptown) I thought really revitalized and beautiful; some buildings I remembered, including my old girlfriend’s apt. house, others more vague but I remembered various ones. I understand now why I couldn’t dream the streets correctly in the area between Fremont St. and the Mode. I liked the parking lot area of the hospital because it opened the skyline behind it on the north side, made it more interesting. What was sad to me was that all along the north side area I visited, I only noticed three theaters, Uptown, Riviera and I went out of my way to see the Century. Just read that the Adelphi was to be torn down (maybe has been done). All those apt. buildings preserved, and most of the movie houses gone. It just boggles the mind as to what the powers that be were thinking – unless it had something to do with taxes (or was a secret pact to destroy old memories of beautiful things?), I do not get it. Chicago is more “toddlin'” now than I ever remember it; vital, aggressive – I don’t comprehend how the theaters were lost…one by one…evidently. (Mumble…mumble)

SPearce
SPearce commented about De Luxe Theatre on May 8, 2008 at 5:30 am

I visited the neighborhood on April 30th. Though I was impressed with much of the revitalization of the north side areas I visited, I cannot say that was so for the Uptown area. The Harry Truman College was impressive, but Broadway and its shops on the east side of the street, the old theater area, and the non-blended strip malls north of the Uptown up to Devon were disappointing. It was nice to see some churches saved. The McJunkin Bldg. is still impressive though. I hope the Uptown Station is preserved. It seemed odd – as if aldermen in this ward either sold out too soon, or didn’t negotiate for the best interests of the ambience of the neighborhood, as it appeared to be negotiated for on W. Diversey and around that area. Just my observation. I hope the Riviera and Uptown receive their due; they could really anchor that intersection with just some life added to them.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on May 8, 2008 at 5:07 am

I visited the neighborhood a week ago and was sad to see the Chateau block on the west side pretty much broken apart, especially where the Vogue Theater was located. I made an error earlier describing the cross street at the north end of the block as Irving Park Rd. It clearly is Sheridan Rd., and the shop fronts I remembered there have been replaced by an open space children’s park. If the facades were pulled off the east side of Broadway on the Chateau block, there still might be something underneath those structures to restore some original architectural ambience to the block, it would seem.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Riviera Theatre on Apr 24, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Thank you. I see the tour schedules don’t quite fit my schedule, but I will know how to check the neighborhoods.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Riviera Theatre on Apr 24, 2008 at 6:19 am

I plan to visit Chicago next week. I would like to walk some of the north side theater areas. Is there a recommended theater or architectural tour for this? Thank you.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on Apr 17, 2008 at 5:10 am

Richard G. Thank you; not a problem. I will do that.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Calo Theatre on Apr 13, 2008 at 5:45 pm

BWChicago – Thank you. I appreciate your information. It is a tricky street to recall as I mainly traveled it on bus and can only recall Clark and Foster, which I think of as Swedentown.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Radio City Music Hall on Mar 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Webmaster: This string, among many for CT theaters in various cities, has been enlightening and informative, but please unsubscribe me from this one now.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on Mar 16, 2008 at 3:31 am

Richard G. – I would like that. Thank you.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Nortown Theater on Mar 8, 2008 at 1:29 am

Melodance: Thank you. Silly, silly me that I did not remember that! It was obvious when you sat long enough and considered them, that you were looking at what seafarers might have seen at night. The interior designs did offer food for thought to occupy us until the movie started; was it not so? Thank you again.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Fox Theatre on Mar 2, 2008 at 5:40 am

TomG: I think you’re right. The “Loft” rings a bell. I think when I asked at the University where the “Loft” was, I was told – Oh, everyone knows where the Loft is; just go to such and such (a corner) and you’ll see alot of people going to the Loft; just follow them; and they were right. I was looking for a building with a “loft” but it was just the opposite; that theater had no height at all. I think its name was from an earlier incarnation as some other business. Thank you.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 25, 2008 at 6:02 am

Thanks. That is wonderful to learn that the area there is being restored. (BTW, what is the condition of the seats in the Riviera?) I can’t picture Goldblatt’s (but, of course, know the store) yet had to have known it because I walked that block and worked at Woolworth’s farther down the street which was in the building evidently razed and left as a parking lot. I can’t remember the west side of Broadway from the bank to Wilson, but can remember some of the shops on the east side of the street.

I agree with you. “My church” was an imposing marker structure and it should have been replaced with another “significant” structure for a number of reasons.

Another thought just came to me. In the area of the church, on the east side of Broadway, was there a terminal or parking garage for taxis?

SPearce
SPearce commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 25, 2008 at 4:35 am

Ah!…the Riviera!

I can’t add much here except to say I join in that it is wonderful this theater was saved, and evidently the corner is being dealt respect, and it would seem it really could revitalize and restore the integrity of the neighborhood. Has there ever been talk of restoring with some sense of continuity, in even a mild way, all of Broadway from, say, Diversey to Uptown?

What I remember about the Riviera Theater is that I liked it somewhat more, or found it more beautiful and satisfying for me, than the Uptown, special though the Uptown is – just personal preference. (It may be that the Riviera had something about it that reminded me of a theater I visited in San Francisco when I was young; not sure.) Thanks for the photos of the beautiful interior. I seem to recall something about the ceiling in the foyer above the bar now that I see the photo. Don’t the approximately 1900 seats make the Riviera a jewel of a venue? Anyone – if it was a vaudeville house first, does its construct lend itself to fairly effective accoustics, or is it miked as if it has none?

Stopped attending the Riviera in the early ‘60s though, and invariably, somewhat sadly, went to the Uptown or elsewhere, simply because the fare offered at the Riviera was not satisfying on any given night to me by then. I do not remember what was offered at the Riviera, and I did always check it, longingly, hoping I could justify buying a ticket, but always ended up elsewhere by '61. I am wondering if the Riviera changed ownership about that time, and whomever owned it booked the horror shows, or others?

I keep thinking that the Riviera closed for a time, maybe a few seasons, in the mid ‘60s or later. I thought that at one point, I couldn’t even look to see if anything was playing there because it wasn’t showing anything – that would have been by 1970. Maybe it just ceased to show movies.

Noticed the postcard of the bank at the “Y” intersection on a number of the Chicago history websites but couldn’t place it. Now it comes back – it was across from the Riviera, and it still was that building in the ‘60s, maybe only slightly modified, but still there. I think it was some other type of financial establishment then, rather than a straight bank, and I think its double doors opened right at the “Y” intersection, and may have had brass details on them. That building was worthy of restoration. I liked to walk down that side of the street, along that building, because it reminded me of bank buildings in my hometown in California; this one was always kept up. I thought it was the most aesthetically pleasing building on the west side of Broadway down to Wilson.

(BTW, there were a number of “Y” corners or blocks coming north up Broadway from about Diversey. I am thinking of the block at Broadway and Montrose. Also sort of in the reverse, one just to the west of Diversey and Broadway. They kind of gave the north side of Chicago, up Broadway, a sort of splendor, as if saying how great Chicago could be in its construction when it wanted to be, and that Chicago could appreciate and incorporate the finest aesthetic beauty too. Remember the scene in the movie version of “The Philadelphia Story” when MacCaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) says to Tracy Samantha Lord Haven (Katherine Hepburn) something about “…there’s an unholy splendor about you…”? But I wax nostalgic.

The name “Peter Pan” seems familiar. The photos of the pancake house call to me to remember that site in the ‘60s (if not a pancake house, what; maybe a cocktail lounge or restaurant?). Not sure.

In the mid-‘60s, about '65, maybe '64, Bobby Rydell appeared at the Aragon Ballroom on an afternoon – maybe a Saturday. Filled with younger youths who were very noisy. Don’t think Bobby was expecting that, and he had to tell them to be quiet or he wouldn’t sing (and I think he lip-synched anyway). If I remember right, management had to tell them to “smoke outside,” and there was some extra little chuckle about that. I always liked Bobby Rydell; though he was the headliner, there were other acts, but I don’t remember them.

Thank you again for the photos. (Some of the early links are bringing up page error now.)

SPearce
SPearce commented about Nortown Theater on Feb 20, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Thank you. I spent much more time at the Uptown, and also the Granada, than the Nortown. Though this theater was not as ornate as those, it left me with the question I set out above. My recollection is that it was more “marine” than “nautical.” Could be incorrect about that. I also remember the “zodiac motif” and wonder why that was included for this theater.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Nortown Theater on Feb 20, 2008 at 5:46 am

Senn Class of ‘63

I have taken a couple of days to read the comments on the Nortown, and was having the most difficult time specifically recalling the theater until I viewed photos of the lobby in the links above, even though the lobby reportedly had been painted over since I ever was last there. Still the white, and blue, maybe the gold, brought the Nortown back to me through a direct recall of a question that came into my own mind those years ago while taking in the Nortown lobby. The question came out of the nature of Devon Avenue then.

As to background, in the ‘50s (maybe even the '40s and back to its inception [would be interesting to learn]), Devon Avenue was an active, high end shopping street of small upscale shops, especially women’s dress shops. There were also service shops such as cobblers and tailors, that type of thing. I remember being told by a clerk in a shop that it used to be that matrons would come to shop on Devon Avenue from around the north side of Chicago, and the drivers would pull up and be given a number, and the customer would be given the same number, then when the customer was finished, her driver would somehow be called to pull up in front, and the shops had employees to carry the customer’s packages to the auto. This was still going on in the late '50s. One popular shop on Devon Avenue was Seymour Paisin; I don’t remember how many blocks east of Western Avenue that shop was located, but it may have been just to the west of the central shopping area. I write all of this precedent to saying the following:

I remember running an errand on Devon Avenue then coming around the corner and going to a movie at the Nortown. I chose to remain in the lobby and enter the house for the beginning of the next show, not a real long wait but it gave me time to gaze and consider the Nortown’s design compared to other movie houses in the area. The lobby photos brought me back to the question that developed in my mind that day. I remember having an insight that, perhaps, in its halcyon days, it was that women, single, or in groups, came to Devon Avenue in the mid morning to shop, then maybe ate lunch, then finished their afternoon (together) by attending a matinee at the Nortown? It seemed the perfect setup for that. The color scheme suggested to me then that it was of a particularly feminine style of the ‘50s emphasizing pastels, especially blue, maybe green, and cream colors which were popular in the '50s. It emphasized sunny climes and sleek and fast living, not so different from what might have been found as decor in hotels in Miami Beach and southern California. Think some of Frank Sinatra’s snappiest tunes.

One of the links above led to, I think, the West Ridge site at Wikipedia, which stated this area was a long established Jewish neighborhood, which, indeed, is as I remember it from the ‘50s and early '60s. When I visited this area, it was from farther south on the north side, though I resided just south of Peterson Avenue about '69-'70. As far as the shops on Devon were concerned then, the street seemed to be heading downhill. So, what I have been thinking about as to the Nortown’s interior marine decor, especially the fantastical sea horses in green, is that a fair number of the regular patrons in the Nortown at that time were persons who might spend vacations in Florida or even California. (I also think there may have been women’s dress shops on Devon that specialized in just the type of clothing one might take to Florida, but I can’t be more specific.) If anyone does have such memories of the area, I would be curious to learn what they might have to say. Maybe Bartonius might remember some of this?

Also, nearby there was the beach area to the east, albeit it was a lake, not a sea, and the social environment of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which had been a pretty active resort in an earlier day.

A coupla: I don’t remember marine designs per se on the exterior of the Nortown; wasn’t it a different motif on the exterior, more tight brick, and classical and art deco designs in the terra cotta? On one of the links, not UrbanRemains, but the Wikipedia link I think, is a photo of Devon Avenue today. On another northside Chicago CT site a blogger mentioned that in Chicgo rehabbers just put something plain up over the exterior of deteriorating old buildings so that when that plain facade is removed later on, treasures of design are discovered. Then there followed lengthy discussion about how to save/preserve; and if something can be saved, what values to consider as to saving structures. (BTW, I appreciated Randall’s comments.) My thought was to study the beautiful design intrinsic to this neighborhood, including what caused the Nortown to have been developed as it was, those shops on Devon might serve as a boon by having some of the current facades removed. Perhaps one day, incentives (not necessarily straight “dough re me” but maybe other incentives) might be developed to rehab a neighborhood before it hits near bottom whether it has viable residency or not. Does anyone remember the design, if any, of the pavement at the front of the Nortown?

I am just wondering if the ambient decor of the Nortown emphasizing a fantasy of water creatures and delightful sea escapism didn’t speak to the type of popular travel destination for Chicagoans I mentioned above, and also celebrated the way art deco emphasized nature and its creatures, a popular style then. I may be wrong on this, but it seems that I looked around the Nortown one time and noticed that most of the design features were about nature and sea creatures, but there really wasn’t much in the design about water itself. Trivia, but I don’t think the Nortown had design features such as water fountains, or waterfalls, or watery designs so much as “things you would find in water or at the beach.” Any comment?

SPearce
SPearce commented about CIBC Theatre on Feb 18, 2008 at 3:54 am

My dentist, Doc Schwartz, was the first trumpet in the Orchestra of the Schubert Theater and played with it for many seasons (over 20, I would think), retiring, I think, with “Hello Dolly.” He was feted during that run and the cast attended the party.

He told me stories of his trumpeting days (his first love). His family wanted the children all to become professionals so he chose to become a dentist but still played trumpet secondarily, on radio broadcasts beginning in the ‘20s (with studio bands or as a soloist closing the broadcast night out after the music feeds ended from NY). I asked him if he had his own sheet music then and he said, “sheet music?” They were jazz musicians! His office was on the north side at Lawrence and Damen, but he grew up on the south side and he and his friends would steal out of their parents tenement apts and flats late at night to crawl along parapets and L sidings and other rooflines to reach the fire escape of the big (Savoy?) ballroom and lift the windows, or even climb in and sit way up in the rafters, to hear the great jazz musicians play, after whom they would pattern themselves and teach themselves; that being the way they set their own standards. He told me he heard King Oliver and (adding with disdain, as to virtuoso skill) his “insignificant” second trumpet, Louis Armstrong. (In musicology it is my understanding even Mr. Armstrong did not classify himself at the level of King Oliver.)

I saw “Hello Dolly” at the Schubert. I am not sure if I saw “Fiddler on the Roof” there or elsewhere. In high school I and some friends were offered the opportunity to be ushers for Flower Drum Song (probably late 1961-63) and then view it for free. I think that was at the Schubert, but am not certain. After accepting our assignments and heading way up a long, narrow stairwell to the top balcony where we were to work, as we reached the last part of the upper stairwell, one of my two friends told me she suffered from “vertigo” and couldn’t go on, which caused my curtness to rise to the occasion. I was accused of being unsympathetic.

Perhaps, if it hasn’t been renamed yet from its corporate moniker, it might be given a name representing continuity from its past into its future.

SPearce
SPearce commented about Sheridan Theatre on Feb 16, 2008 at 6:37 am

Scott: Thank you for the information. I am reading steadily through the north side theaters and will reach the Riviera soon. Also the Nortown was one I attended. Is there history that the workers the City hired during the depression contributed to construction, add-on or maintenance of private theater buildings as well as parks and roads?

SPearce
SPearce commented about Sheridan Theatre on Feb 15, 2008 at 1:26 am

Thank you for posting the timelines and photos above. Now I get it (couldn’t understand why I didn’t remember a Sheridan theater at that address). It was a synagogue during my time, and I recall the structure after seeing the exterior photo. I recall that in the early 1960s while walking there, it was told to me by someone who passed me on the street while I was looking up at the building that it had been a theater, and was reportedly beautiful inside and that I could probably go in and look around, if I was interested – whomever represented management inside would probably let me. I asked the person if they had seen it inside and they said they had just gone a little ways inside the front door and looked around, and what they saw was beautiful, but that they had to catch a bus, so they hadn’t stayed long and left.

Since I am not a Jew, I chose to respect the congregation’s privacy, and did not have the temerity to enter without invitation. The photos of the interior leave me without voice that this building was forfeited (at such a late date for appreciating the need for preservation). One wonders about the congregation. Was it owned or leased by them? Was it that the congregation was small then, not able, not interested, or somehow just didn’t value this structure enough to put together venture capital and save it for themselves a few years ago? Maybe the congregation and the Alderman together were interested in turning it into a senior citizens home. I even think I have heard this story.

I would like to think those photos of this theater are well preserved in multiple places as an example of the worst treatment that can happen to a theater treasure. I respect the caveat that the photos cannot be copied. Would that people/citizens/residents better understood that they lose their own respect when commerce is simply allowed to co-opt culture, even if residents are not capable of protecting neighborhood buildings. These treasures just can’t be replicated. I’m sick. I am so disappointed I did not know what a treasure was the interior of the building.

Scott: I noted and was touched by your remark that in walking around inside the Sheridan you found it to be “one of the most incredible experiences of your life.”

SPearce
SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm

I often rode the bus up and down Broadway in this area, to go to church, Uptown, downtown. I don’t know how Broadway appears today, of course, but from Montrose south to Irving Park, my recollection was from about 1956-66 that where the buildings were not “special purpose structures” such as a church, a gas station, an auto dealership, there were many brown buildings with innumerable office or shop spaces at the ground level – for businesses that today would be managed from home, or within box stores and/or malls, or are redundant, i.e. distributors of manufacturing/industrial parts, insurance agencies. Even then, these spaces on these streets seemed to be for a function that had peaked and passed. I think the streets and buildings were already in their second season (or more). Over some of the shops were apartments, I think.

I never really had been able to visualize what that area east of Broadway might have been before the apartments were constructed, so thank you, Scott, for describing the U.S. Marine Hospital, and the Husser house, and giving a broader earlier picture of north Chicago.

Although I don’t work in the field, I have been trained as a real estate appraiser, and I have an interest in buildings and streets being rehabbed or constructed for continuity of style. So many of those buildings could have been encompassed under a continuous style (even though intermixed with other styles), and perhaps through that had a chance to be preserved and rehabbed under a larger umbrella. That way, neighbors might not have to defend each building as to its historical architectural significance. Even back before the time, when the neighborhood switched styles from, say, Belle Arts or Queen Anne/Chicago Craftsman style houses and buildings to Art Moderne in a neighborhood, I don’t think I have ever once heard that residents even thought of resisting developers against tearing down one style and introducing another. They may have liked Art Moderne and were all for it – then. In my day, Mayor Daly controlled every aspect of the city, and there were no residents' rights to speak of that I recall.

I hadn’t heard reference to St. Mary of the Lake in a long time; a friend attended that church.