Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Uptown, Pt. 1

The Uptown Theater, originally uploaded by William 74.

Uptown, on the north side of Chicago, is an interesting neighborhood, and taken as a whole is a place of contradictions. It is at turns well kept and shabby, quiet and loud, workmanlike and elegant. It encompasses such diverse spaces as the suburban-esque houses of Buena Park and the tree lined streets of Margate, to the down at heel storefronts around Wilson and Argyle. But the spiritual center of Uptown is the entertainment district. It is by far my favorite part of Uptown, and one of my favorite places to walk through, day or night.

Spanning just a small area around the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway, the Entertainment District is a popular tourist destination, and was designated a National Historic District in 2000. Formerly home to several infamous theaters and nightclubs, only four remain, and only three of which are still a going concern.

Pictured is the Uptown Theatre, a grand movie palace designed by Rapp and Rapp and run for much of it's life by Balaban and Katz. It's large, having seats for over 4,000 patrons, and ornate, featuring some wonderful detailing inside and out. It is also in a state of arrested decay, with some of the exterior ornamentation having been removed for repair, plywood board covering the high windows, and steel poles holding up the marquee. It is now owned by a music production company that hopes to continue the restoration of this fine space, and reopen it as a music venue. I can only hope they succeed.

Occasionally, when I walk past, I'll see the front door open, some dim lights on in the lobby, and some work being done. I can see a brief glimpse of the ornate interior of this grand old palace and I wonder. I wonder what it was like to walk up to the Uptown on a Friday night, marquee ablaze, crowds on the sidewalk, and buy a ticket.

It is something I can only imagine.

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