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Photos posted in photo section via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
There continues to be a lot of confusion over the location of the White Front. All the hard evidence I’ve seen points to the storefront that was most recently Kiss & Tell Lingerie as the location, while anecdotes point to the Foot Locker.
-The White Front was at 909 Milwaukee under the pre-1909 numbering system, according to numerous sources
-The address 909 Milwaukee translated to 1257 Milwaukee when re-numbered, according to the 1909 renumbering guide (http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.pdf) and the 1914 Sanborn Map covering this area.
-This is a photo of the White Front, reprinted in a 1916 Moving Picture World
-A February 6, 1906 article in the Chicago Tribune describes a fire in a three story building at 909 Milwaukee. The White Front opened later that month at 909 Milwaukee. If the fire was in the building now occupied by Foot Locker, it would have been described as a “two story building”
-The 1914 Sanborn Map illustrates the Kiss & Tell building as it currently stands, so that building dates at least to 1914 if not earlier.
-The 1916 article describes a 5&10 store in the former White Front. 1916 Chicago Tribune advertisements show a O'Connor & Goldberg shoe store in the 1253, Foot Locker building.
I have used photoshop to paste the image of the White Front onto the facades of the existing buildings. The proportions of the photo fit very well into the Kiss & Tell, especially the surrounding architectural details. The photo does not align well with the Foot Locker’s proportions. This comparison is posted here in the photos section.
Finally, Byster’s was not in the Foot Locker, it was one door south. The awning still says Byster’s.
Chicago’s Fine Arts building contains two of the oldest surviving theatres in Chicago, with remarkably complex histories.
The Solon S. Beman-designed building began was built 1885-1887 as the Studebaker Building. A massive building with gigantic granite columns, it was built for the Studebaker Company, which at the time manufactured carriages. The first four floors originally served as showrooms, with manufacturing on the upper four and in the basement. At the time of construction, this part of Michigan Avenue was largely residential, but the character began to change soon after, with the construction of the adjacent Auditorium Building to the south in 1889. To the north was the Art Institute of Chicago, built in 1886-1887. Both neighboring buildings echoed the Studebaker’s architecture with extensive use of arcades and rusticated stone.
In 1890 and 1892 the Art Institute built and enlarged an annex addition to the Studebaker to house its galleries and libraries while it prepared to move across the street into the Memorial Art Palace, used by the World’s Congress Auxiliary for scholarly programs during the Columbian Exposition. In 1895, the Studebaker Company began work a new building on South Wabash Street and once it was complete in late 1897, the old building was re-dedicated to Fine Arts.
Under the management of Charles C. Curtiss, the new plans included two music halls on the first floor, Studebaker Hall, seating around 1500 and University Hall, seating around 700 for recitals. The top story was removed and three new stories added. The upper part of the building would be offices and studios for musicians, artists, publishers, architects, and other artistic purposes. A smaller assembly hall would be built on the 10th floor, connected to the Auditorium hotel’s dining room. The open-air Venetian Court was built in the fourth floor light well. Stores on the lower floors would be designated for musical instrument stores. The new building would become the hub of the arts community in Chicago, and over the years held studios for such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright, Lorado Taft, John T. McCutcheon, L. Frank Baum, and organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Chicago Women’s Club, University of Chicago Teacher’s College, Chicago Musical College, Poetry Magazine, the Little Room, the Little Review, the Little Theater, the Kalo Shop and the Illinois Women’s Suffrage movement.
Studebaker Hall opened September 29, 1898 and was primarily used for popular music, meetings and plays. It was noted as exceptionally beautiful and acoustically superior. Originally, it had an arched proscenium like the neighboring Auditorium and 34 box seats across three levels, divided by stately columns. Early on it was primarily used for light opera by the Castle Square company of Boston. It was leased to Connor & Dillingham of New York in June, 1907 and was refurbished. In August, 1913 it turned over to Klaw & Erlanger. The Studebaker began its brief high-class film career April 20, 1914 when Jones, Linick, and Shaefer assumed operations, with an even briefer stint under Triangle. In September, 1917 the Shubert organization took over the lease, working with K & E, and began a major reconstruction. The proscenium arch was enlarged, the side walls were rebuilt, and a new main floor, balcony, and gallery were constructed, though the ceiling remained the same. Hanks & Gazzolo took over in 1922, and in October 1927, Samuel Insull took over the lease so that his theatrically-oriented wife could manage it. (Gladys Insull was the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane.) After the stock crash devastated Insull, the Studebaker ran diminished until being leased to a variety of itinerants. Among them was the Central Church, which held services there 1944-1950. On February 11, 1950, it closed and was used as studios for NBC through 1955, reopening October 2, 1956. From then it operated under a series of organizations including the Nederlanders. It was only used sporadically in its later years, and the final show may have been A Prairie Home Companion in October, 1982.
University Hall opened December 29, 1899 and was renamed Music Hall around 1903, when a balcony was added. It was again remodeled somewhat in 1908, and renamed the Fine Arts Theater, now presenting plays. In 1912, it was totally rebuilt and the Fine Arts Theater name became more prominently used. On May 16, 1914 it started showing films under the Alfred Hamburger organization during gaps between live shows. Another round of renovations came in October 1916, when it was renamed the most familiar name, the Playhouse Theater and went back to showing plays except for brief stints of movies. In 1919 it was leased to Metro Pictures, but showed both film and performance through the twenties. In April 1933, coinciding with the Century of Progress, it was again renamed to the World Playhouse, featuring movies, especially foreign films. The World Playhouse became, essentially, Chicago’s first dedicated foreign and art film theater. It closed in 1972; in its final year it had booked adult films among other imports. It was renovated and reopened in September 1980 for chamber music.
In December, 1982 M&R Amusement Company announced plans to convert the two theaters into a cinema complex, becoming the first theaters to open in the Loop in 10 years. They opened on Christmas Day with Moonlighting in Theatre 1 (Studebaker) and Veronika Voss in Theatre 2 (World Playhouse). Initially, the World Playhouse continued showing live entertainment occasionally. In 1983, the Studebaker stage was walled off to create Theater 3, utilizing a dressing room as a projection booth. In 1984, the same approach was taken in Theater 2 to create Theater 4; Theater 3 was renovated so that both could share a newly-built booth in between. Theatre 1 held approximately 1200 seats; Theatre 2 approximately 550 seats; Theatre 3 240 seats; Theatre 4 158 seats. Showing mostly art and independent films, with occasional Hollywood fare, the theaters closed in November, 2000.
Since then, various proposals have been floated to reopen the theaters, but none have come to fruition. Theaters 3 and 4 have been removed, restoring the integrity of the stages. The Studebaker and World Playhouse have been open for occasional special events, but await a thorough renovation to be reused.
The newspapers were a little unclear. “The Fine Arts Theatre” and “The Fine Arts Music Hall” both appear in the Tribune from 1908-1912. I suspect the ‘music hall’ references were talking about Assembly/Curtiss Hall on the 10th floor but it’s not really clear. I’ll take it down and re-edit.
More likely they just fell apart by that time. I think they were pressed metal.
Review of a play about the Iroquois fire
NYC tore down even more big theaters than Chicago did. There’s just a limit for what’s supportable. Setting aside property taxes, who would pay to maintain these buildings with no foreseeable future use for 50-60 years? If all the loop theaters were still there, it’s likely none of them would be profitable. There’s only so much market and some pruning is painful but ultimately necessary.
Yes, this is a particularly inaccurate and confusing entry.
Actually the Playhouse was University Hall until about in 1903, when it was renamed Music Hall and may have gained its balcony, renamed again in 1912, when it was rebuilt as the Fine Arts Theatre which it remained until 1917, when it was renamed the Playhouse, until it was renamed World Playhouse in 1932. Oddly, in 1917, the Studebaker was run by Jones, Linick, and Shaefer while the Playhouse was run by Alfred Hamburger, a competitor.
Here are 1898 views of the Studebaker and the Playhouse (then known as University Hall until the 1916 remodeling)
Here are recent views of the Playhouse and Studebaker
Architects were Footlik & Rose
Robert Babbin was architect.
The BremenTowne Theater opened Jan 29, 1971 as a 1000 seat twin.
Actually opened June 10, 1966.
Original 1965 opening ad is posted. Original architect was Maurice Sornik.
Grand opening ad with illustration uploaded.
This was a Lubliner theater originally.
This was featured on the G4 program “Human Wrecking Balls”
http://www.openhousechicago.org/site/144/ This year’s OpenHouseChicago features the opportunity to step inside the Studebaker.
Well, I dunno why that guy brought it up, he doesn’t have much of a comment history. Is it more important to read comments about what monster movies someone watched 50 years ago than about the roles particular theaters played in the lives of a persecuted minority?
Theatre history is social history.
Dunno about the Alex, but the Patio was the subject of a couple raids on homosexuals.
As of 1973 when screen 3 was added, Golf Mill had the most seats outside of the largest palaces like the Chicago, Oriental, Granada, and Uptown, with 3200 seats.