Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Movie Theaters in Rogers Park and West Ridge, Part 2

The previous entry is this series was posted back in November of 2012 and you can link to it here. It primarily focuses on the small nickelodeons and neighborhood theaters.  This post was begun and then abandoned, although I can't remember why.  At this rate the next entry is due in 2016...

Number of seats are taken from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
Movie theaters in Rogers Park and West Ridge can be divided into types based on their architectural characteristics, but also by number of seats. Nickelodeons like the Casino and the Morse accommodated anywhere from 300 to 750 people.  Neighborhood theaters like the Adelphi and the Ellantee could seat more than 1000.  Movie palaces could accommodate from 1,500 to more than 4,000.  But sometimes you can't beat a graph. 

I think of movie palaces like wooly mammoths or sabre-tooth tigers.  They grew to enormous sizes, yet depended on the perfect environment in order to survive.  Movie palaces provided affordable entertainment in a beautiful surrounding. And in the Chicago summer it didn't hurt that you could enjoy air conditioning long before this was readily available.  But the buildings began to age, and the profit margins began to shrink.  New movie theaters were more likely to open in areas with generous amounts of parking.  Many elaborate theaters went into a long decline that ended in demolition.
Howard Theater, 1917.  1621 W. Howard
A major burst in movie theater creativity occurred in the Howard Street commercial district.  This
area was a transit hub between Chicago and the North suburbs, and supported a strong commercial and entertainment district after its annexation to Chicago in 1915. At the time you couldn't buy liquor in nearby Evanston, but the merchants along Howard Street were willing to remedy the situation.
From Heating and Ventilating Magazine, 1919

The Howard Theater was designed by Henry Newhouse and built in 1917.  It was soon acquired by Balaban & Katz. The building contained a row of commercial spaces with residential units above and had a seating capacity for 1,625.   Originally the entire brick and terra cotta facade was illuminated with integral lights, including two domed towers which must have been visible throughout the district.  Its ornamentation could perhaps be described as baroque Classical Revival.  The theater was closed some time in the 1970s.   In 1999 the auditorium portion of the building was demolished and the remainder was converted into rental units.

Norshore Theater, 1925. 1763 W. Howard

In 1925 the Norshore Theater located just to the west of the elevated tracks.  It contained 1,748 seats and also had a facade of brick and terra cotta trim.  Portions of the front facade slanted back from the street slightly.  This had the effect of funneling people towards the theater entrance.  At the marquee there were tall terra cotta piers with large signs, visible from east and west.

The ornamentation of this theater was more restrained than that of the Howard Theater.  One source (  identifies this as the work of Rapp & Rapp, and the style as French Renaissance Revival.  It was also noted as being operated by Balaban & Katz.  It does seem odd to have two large Balaban & Katz theaters a block away from each other.  The demand for movies at this time must have been breathtaking.  But it wasn't to last.  This theater was demolished in 1960.


  1. The Howard Theatre was converted into affordable residential rental units, not condos.

  2. Are you saying the Norshore was torn down in 1960? I don't believe this is correct. I went to that theater sometime in the 70's.

    1. The Adelphi had its named changed for a few years to the North Shore Cinema. Then it went back to the Adelphi for its final years.
      The Norshore on Howard was torn down for an insurance company office.
      That was torn down for the Gateway Center.

  3. Was this the same Norshore Theater that was on N. Clark?

  4. Nope, this theater was on Howard, where the Gateway complex is now located. You might be thinking of the Adelphi, which was demolished in 2006.

  5. The Granada's seating capacity for movies was around 2,800, all on the main floor, from at least the late 1950s on, which was when I started going there. The balcony was never used for movies then, but was used for some concerts.

  6. That's interesting. My seating capacity for the Granada is taken from the 1951 Sanborn Map. It makes sense that they wouldn't open up the full house unless it was needed. I'm sure that's how the big theaters still operate.