Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ellantee Theater, 1554 W. Devon

Most people in Rogers Park know that Clark-Devon Hardware is actually a converted movie theater.  There are even remnants of the interior ornamentation, if you know where to look.  What isn't as clear is how this building changed over time, its context among similar neighborhood movie theaters, and its shifting significance to the neighborhood.
Terra Cotta Ornamentation of the Ellantee Theater

Last spring I joined the board of the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society.  I'm not much of a joiner, so this was a big step for me.  At one of the meetings a brilliant suggestion was made to utilize vacant storefronts as exhibit spaces which would focus on the history of those buildings and the immediate area.  This ties in so closely to the goals of Ultra Local Geography that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to participate.  It was decided that Clark-Devon Hardware would be a good sample project.  It's not vacant, but some type of prototype project was needed.  And one of the other board members is the owner...

To the right is a lunchtime drawing of the decorative pier cap that once framed an even more elaborate parapet.   Time has not been kind to the terra cotta ornamentation on this building.  You can see remnants of the integral light sockets, which were a common treatment for theaters.  In combination with the old marquee It must have been an amazing glowing sight in its day.

So now the historical society is faced with some choices to make.  What are the goals of these storefront exhibits?  How should they be structured?  What sort of stories are they intended to tell?  I have some ideas, but this will need to be a collaborative effort.  Especially since the intent is to extend the project to other storefronts throughout the neighborhood.  I've developed a lot of methods to graphically represent development and change over time, but what about the social history embodied by the building?  How can that be made accessible in a visually intelligible way?  This should be an interesting process, and I expect to try out some ideas here first to see if they float.

1 comment:

  1. Especially since the intent is to extend the project to other storefronts throughout the neighborhood.