Willard Theatre

340 E. 51st Street,
Chicago, IL 60615

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Alfred Hamburger Theaters, Essaness Theaters Corp., Jones, Linick & Schaefer

Architects: Henry L. Newhouse

Functions: Church, Community Center

Previous Names: New Park Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Willard Theatre

The Willard, in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood, on E. 51st Street at S. Calumet Avenue, was opened in 1911 for the Jones, Linick and Schaefer circuit, as a venue for both movies and live performances. From about 1917 to 1926, it was known as the New Park Theatre. The theatre could originally seat around 1,000, but seating was later reduced.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, like many South Side theatres, the Willard/New Park was a popular venue for jazz performers in addition to onscreen entertainment. It was acquired by the Essaness chain in its later years of operation.

The Willard Theatre closed as a movie theatre during the 1950’s, and today the building is home to a church and community center.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Broan on February 28, 2005 at 1:57 am

Was this previously known as the New Park? Jazz Age Chicago has a New Park Theatre listed with 1000 seats as of 1923 at 342 E 51st.

Broan on June 15, 2006 at 6:00 pm

It opened in 1911. View link . It was renamed the New Park from about 1917-1926. It actually DOES still stand. Although the address maps to the NW Corner of Calumet and 51st, it is still there, actually at the NE Corner. It looks like the surrounding building has been reconstructed, but the theater stands. It was originally a Jones, Linick, Shaefer theater, and later Essaness.

Broan on March 13, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Here are photos of this theatre. As I said, the status of this theatre should be changed to closed, function as community center/church.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 13, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Fascinating find. That is a pretty big room. On casual glance I’d say there easily could have been over 1,000 seats in there at some point.

kencmcintyre on June 13, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Here is a March 1915 ad from the Suburbanite Economist:

davidplomin on May 11, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I’m intrigued with the way they wrapped the new building around the old theater. Not too shabby! I like the one picture that shows the CTA train (red? green line?) right there, Thats the way we get people to use public transportation! Very accessible for this venue! I wonder if the people who use that theater (would Love to see interior pics!) know that the Marx Brothers honed their act there in Vaudevile years before they made their success in Hollywood?!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 2, 2018 at 8:55 pm

The April 3, 1910, issue of The Economist said that the theater and store building to be built at 51st Street and Calumet Avenue for the Willard Amusement Company had been designed by architect Henry L. Newhouse.

DavidZornig on December 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

Circa 1929 photo added credit Wm Shapotkin Collection.

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