Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicago Theater

Chicago Theater Ghost Sign, originally uploaded by William 74.

By 1921, Balaban & Katz had several major movie palaces located throughout the Chicago area, and was well on it's way to being the theater powerhouse it ended up becoming. Typically B&K chose to open theaters in outlying areas, hoping to serve a growing middle class, but in 1921 they opened up the Chicago Theatre , right downtown on North State Street. It proved to be the firm's flagship and was the dominant theater in the Loop until the late 40's.

Designed by legendary theater architects Rapp & Rapp (who also did the Uptown and Oriental theaters for B&K) , the Chicago was one of the first theaters to be built in R&R's neo-baroque style. It's also the oldest example still surviving in Chicago, and features a six-story tall arch over the State Street entrance, a Tiffany stained glass window, and a replica of the original neon marquee (which is with the Smithsonian). Inside, the lobby shows a heavy French influence, and features murals, chandeliers, and gilded accessories. In all, it's a grand place, and fitting of it's nickname "The Wonder Theater of the World".

This sign is in an alley off State, and is pretty well hidden unless you're cutting between State and Wabash. The font and general style date stamps this to the fifties or early sixties, probably before the building next door was put up. I'm surprised it's still hanging in there- you find old painted signs like this all over the city, but usually they're scrubbed off the more famous ones.

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