Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 26 - 50 of 227 comments

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 18, 2008 at 3:57 am

Here is some detail from the upstairs lobby ceiling:
http://tinyurl.com/2ldyax

Nortown
Nortown on March 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Hey Batwoman:
I remember Villa Palermo well! Great thin crust pizza. I recall that two guys ran the place. They may have been father and son since they looked alike. After I moved to the suburbs from Rogers Park 15 years ago, I found that these same two guys had opened up a Villa Palermo in Palatine on Rand Road. It has since closed.

Batwoman
Batwoman on March 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm

yep, was playing with that last week after my sister mentioned Villa Palermo. It will still entact when I saw it, but there was a dumpster out front. don’t know if things have changed since then.

Nortown
Nortown on March 17, 2008 at 1:48 pm

For an interesting view of the Nortown, go to Google Maps, and enter in the address 6340 N. Western, Chicago, IL. Click on the “street view” and you will get an image of the Nortown as it was being demolished.

SPearce
SPearce on March 8, 2008 at 1:29 am

Melodance: Thank you. Silly, silly me that I did not remember that! It was obvious when you sat long enough and considered them, that you were looking at what seafarers might have seen at night. The interior designs did offer food for thought to occupy us until the movie started; was it not so? Thank you again.

Melodance
Melodance on March 7, 2008 at 7:17 pm

The last time I was in this theatre was just after they partitioned it into three auditoriums. It was for that reason I didn’t return.

I drove by a few months ago and saw that it was demolished. While not surprising as it was boarded up for so long, it was sad to see another lovely theatre gone.

SPearce asked about the Zodiac signs—I think this was because of the nautical theme. Ship navigators used the star signs as their guides during sailing and maybe that’s why they were used in the decor.

The theatre always reminded me of something out of the movie “20,000 Leagues under the Sea.” One could almost imagine James Mason (Captain Nemo) stepping out from behind a pillar.

CHICTH74
CHICTH74 on February 21, 2008 at 6:11 am

Their are picture of the NORTOWN at this adress

www.mekong.net/random/theatres.htm

Thay are in set nummber 17

thank you for your time.

SPearce
SPearce on February 20, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Thank you. I spent much more time at the Uptown, and also the Granada, than the Nortown. Though this theater was not as ornate as those, it left me with the question I set out above. My recollection is that it was more “marine” than “nautical.” Could be incorrect about that. I also remember the “zodiac motif” and wonder why that was included for this theater.

Nortown
Nortown on February 20, 2008 at 7:16 am

Considering that the Nortown was built in 1931, I don’t believe that the nautical design had any relationship to the shops that may have been on Devon Avenue and their clientle of the time. The relatively small lobby did not allow for any type of waterfalls. I worked at the Nortown for seven years and the interior color scheme never impressed me as being “pastel”. The Granada Theatre to the east and the Uptown Theatre to the south had much more elaborate exteriors and interiors. I have several photographs that I took from the early 1980’s that I hope to scan shortly and post on this site. I think you will see from them that the interior had rather bold colors.

SPearce
SPearce on February 20, 2008 at 5:46 am

Senn Class of ‘63

I have taken a couple of days to read the comments on the Nortown, and was having the most difficult time specifically recalling the theater until I viewed photos of the lobby in the links above, even though the lobby reportedly had been painted over since I ever was last there. Still the white, and blue, maybe the gold, brought the Nortown back to me through a direct recall of a question that came into my own mind those years ago while taking in the Nortown lobby. The question came out of the nature of Devon Avenue then.

As to background, in the ‘50s (maybe even the '40s and back to its inception [would be interesting to learn]), Devon Avenue was an active, high end shopping street of small upscale shops, especially women’s dress shops. There were also service shops such as cobblers and tailors, that type of thing. I remember being told by a clerk in a shop that it used to be that matrons would come to shop on Devon Avenue from around the north side of Chicago, and the drivers would pull up and be given a number, and the customer would be given the same number, then when the customer was finished, her driver would somehow be called to pull up in front, and the shops had employees to carry the customer’s packages to the auto. This was still going on in the late '50s. One popular shop on Devon Avenue was Seymour Paisin; I don’t remember how many blocks east of Western Avenue that shop was located, but it may have been just to the west of the central shopping area. I write all of this precedent to saying the following:

I remember running an errand on Devon Avenue then coming around the corner and going to a movie at the Nortown. I chose to remain in the lobby and enter the house for the beginning of the next show, not a real long wait but it gave me time to gaze and consider the Nortown’s design compared to other movie houses in the area. The lobby photos brought me back to the question that developed in my mind that day. I remember having an insight that, perhaps, in its halcyon days, it was that women, single, or in groups, came to Devon Avenue in the mid morning to shop, then maybe ate lunch, then finished their afternoon (together) by attending a matinee at the Nortown? It seemed the perfect setup for that. The color scheme suggested to me then that it was of a particularly feminine style of the ‘50s emphasizing pastels, especially blue, maybe green, and cream colors which were popular in the '50s. It emphasized sunny climes and sleek and fast living, not so different from what might have been found as decor in hotels in Miami Beach and southern California. Think some of Frank Sinatra’s snappiest tunes.

One of the links above led to, I think, the West Ridge site at Wikipedia, which stated this area was a long established Jewish neighborhood, which, indeed, is as I remember it from the ‘50s and early '60s. When I visited this area, it was from farther south on the north side, though I resided just south of Peterson Avenue about '69-'70. As far as the shops on Devon were concerned then, the street seemed to be heading downhill. So, what I have been thinking about as to the Nortown’s interior marine decor, especially the fantastical sea horses in green, is that a fair number of the regular patrons in the Nortown at that time were persons who might spend vacations in Florida or even California. (I also think there may have been women’s dress shops on Devon that specialized in just the type of clothing one might take to Florida, but I can’t be more specific.) If anyone does have such memories of the area, I would be curious to learn what they might have to say. Maybe Bartonius might remember some of this?

Also, nearby there was the beach area to the east, albeit it was a lake, not a sea, and the social environment of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which had been a pretty active resort in an earlier day.

A coupla: I don’t remember marine designs per se on the exterior of the Nortown; wasn’t it a different motif on the exterior, more tight brick, and classical and art deco designs in the terra cotta? On one of the links, not UrbanRemains, but the Wikipedia link I think, is a photo of Devon Avenue today. On another northside Chicago CT site a blogger mentioned that in Chicgo rehabbers just put something plain up over the exterior of deteriorating old buildings so that when that plain facade is removed later on, treasures of design are discovered. Then there followed lengthy discussion about how to save/preserve; and if something can be saved, what values to consider as to saving structures. (BTW, I appreciated Randall’s comments.) My thought was to study the beautiful design intrinsic to this neighborhood, including what caused the Nortown to have been developed as it was, those shops on Devon might serve as a boon by having some of the current facades removed. Perhaps one day, incentives (not necessarily straight “dough re me” but maybe other incentives) might be developed to rehab a neighborhood before it hits near bottom whether it has viable residency or not. Does anyone remember the design, if any, of the pavement at the front of the Nortown?

I am just wondering if the ambient decor of the Nortown emphasizing a fantasy of water creatures and delightful sea escapism didn’t speak to the type of popular travel destination for Chicagoans I mentioned above, and also celebrated the way art deco emphasized nature and its creatures, a popular style then. I may be wrong on this, but it seems that I looked around the Nortown one time and noticed that most of the design features were about nature and sea creatures, but there really wasn’t much in the design about water itself. Trivia, but I don’t think the Nortown had design features such as water fountains, or waterfalls, or watery designs so much as “things you would find in water or at the beach.” Any comment?

Batwoman
Batwoman on February 19, 2008 at 2:40 am

I just heard Wolfy’s is gone.

clyde88
clyde88 on February 18, 2008 at 6:03 am

Of Course that should be Wrigley field.

clyde88
clyde88 on February 18, 2008 at 6:01 am

So sad, sorry old friend I should have been there. If anybody has photos of the outside from the 80s please please post them. I can remember spending all day at D&M Sportscards ( Max’s ) that was just a few doors down then going to the Nortown for 2.00 Tusedays in 88 and 89. Every year another part of my youth gets wiped away. With the building gone the street dose not even look the same, it’s almost like we were never even there. I guess I will have to go through this with Wolfy’s and Wrogley Field someday.

Batwoman
Batwoman on January 31, 2008 at 9:23 pm

It was even better before they split it. Although they did revert back to a single screen when they tried to save it before closing as a theater for good.

I just ran into someone on LJ in a MFU group of all places that is a fellow west (east) rogers park gal who was surprised to hear me mention that the nortown’s gone now.

Rogersparkgal
Rogersparkgal on October 22, 2007 at 7:34 am

I am a lot younger than most of the people posting here, but I wanted to chime in. The last movie I saw at Nortown was “War of the Roses” (1989/90), a film far too adult in nature for my 8 year old self at the time. I have fond memories of this theatre. What little I can remember. I loved the staircase and all the ornamentation. I remember it was always pretty empty. I loved looking up at all the stars on the ceiling. I would just get lost in the atmosphere on the place. I wish I could have seen it before it was split up into three screens. I remember upstairs there was one of those old-fashioned scales. It might have been the kind that gives you a fortune with your weight. There was also video games, but I can’t remember on what level. I lived just a block or two away and it was such a convenient option. My best friend of over 20 years used to see flicks with me there, so it reminds me of a different time in my life with her.

Now as an adult, I would drive by and soak in her beauty each time I passed knowing one day it would be gone. That day has come and it’s heartbreaking. Thank you Urban Remains for posting some affordable pieces for purchase. I am so happy I have a piece of her now that she no longer stands. It’s like a piece of my childhood.

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 15, 2007 at 6:50 am

Super;
BW doesn’t seem to want me to post further on the Nortown models, so I won’t be posting in this page again at all, take care.

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 15, 2007 at 6:48 am

Super;
The preservation issue of course no longer applies to THIS theater, it’s history, but it serves here as a reminder of what was lost and what SHOULD have been done, using this information now should be motivational to working towards preventing a repeat when/where ever possible/practical. Of course not every building can ever be saved, and there’s plenty that probably are best left in the landfill.
In this case the owner was quoted by the media as saying he considered saving the building but that “the numbers didnt work out.” Okay, then if this isn’t the place to discuss this, then Im outta here, see ya around I guess.

supercharger96
supercharger96 on October 15, 2007 at 5:33 am

Randall,
It’s easy to stand up on a soapbox and preach down to the invisible readers of the internet that we should all rise up do something, and it’s far easier to preach when something is after the fact.
Your posts would not have been relevant in this situation if the building were still standing today. The idea of adaptive reuse did not fit in with the plans the owner had for the location.
If you would like to issue diatribes as to how the cost of preservation efforts for commercial and residential properties can be partially offset by the tax laws of the US government, I am sure that there are plenty of places where your views would be welcomed and relevant. This specific Nortown location is not an appropriate place for this discussion and continuing to spew out information on “saving” properties is a slap in the face to all of the people on the Nortown list who loved this theater. We are all already heartsick over her loss. I am sure that there is a forum somewhere on Cinema Treasures where this topic is appropriate, but this isn’t it.
If you would like to continue to update this list on the progress of your art deco comedy/tragedy masks I could imagine that would be

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 14, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Sure thing BW, but in my last two posts I did add a LOT more content relative to preservation and how to get involved in preservation efforts to stop demolition in the first place! The link to my photo in one of the last two posts was an extremely minor, insignificant part- one line in a 37 line post about preservation efforts, and then my last post was a continuation of the tax credits for restoration of historic structures.
I thought that information would be of value to readers here, instead of lamenting the lost after the fact- get angry, get involved and prevent it from happening AGAIN because this WILL happen again and again unless people get involved in a proactive way.
So far I haven’t seen anything here about stopping the destruction or anyone posting about HOW to do that.

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 14, 2007 at 12:02 am

Federal law provides a federal income tax credit equal to 20% of the cost of rehabilitating a historic building for commercial use. To qualify for the credit, the property must be a certified historic structureâ€"that is, on the National Register of Historic Places or contributing to a registered historic district. (Non-historic buildings built before 1936 qualify for a 10% tax credit.) A substantial rehabilitation is necessary, and the work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Applications for the credit are available through your state historic preservation office, and the final decisions are made by the National Park Service. For more information, take a look at our Rehabilitation Tax Credit Guide, prepared by our Community Revitalization Department. In addition, the National Park Service’s website offers helpful information on this tax credit. (At present, individuals rehabilitating a historic property for their primary residence do not qualify for this tax credit.)

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 13, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Now that I finished the first model, I started the second one today of the “tragedy” mask

View link

As I re-read this thread a bit it reminded me to add some comments about preservation, the destruction of the theater, and thousands of similarly historic buildings around the country is in part due to the fact that these buildings have not been landmarked or added to the historic structures list thereby enabling preservation as well as grants, low interest loans and tax credits to their owners, the difference there could mean the difference between destruction and renovation. Any time it is CHEAPER to demolish and build new, they will do it, the idea is to make it LESS expensive to preverve, restore, and adapt these old buildings to new uses.
In my little town the old Carnegie library built 1910 was replaced with a new library around the corner, the attractive little brick building was too small, lacked handicapped access etc. It was offered to a local artist for $1 with the provision he spend $5,000 of his renovation expendature at LOCAL businesses.

He renovated it into a fine dining restaurant, he restored the damaged brickwork perfectly, replaced the florescent lights with period style ceiling lamps and the interior looks like it belongs. As he wanted a small entrance level spot for two outdoor tables, the iron railing he installed was authentic to the 1910 style.
It was a win-win for the city, the new owner and local businesses in every way, and the building was restored and repaired.

Consider joining the National Trust for Historic Preservation and getting their excellent magazine;

http://www.nationaltrust.org/advocacy

Across the nation a teardown epidemic is wiping out historic neighborhoods one house at a time. As older homes are demolished and replaced with dramatically larger, out-of-scale new structures, the historic character of the existing neighborhood is changed forever. Neighborhood livability is diminished as trees are removed, backyards are eliminated, and sunlight is blocked by towering new structures built up to the property lines. Community economic and social diversity is reduced as new mansions replace affordable homes. House by house, neighborhoods are losing a part of their historic fabric and much of their character.
To help arm neighborhood residents, preservationists and local government leaders, the National Trust has published Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend to address the origins and impact of teardowns.

Historic neighborhoods can be protected from teardowns, through a variety of tools and approaches that manage this type of growth. Because there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution or “magic bullet” that will stop teardowns, communities should expect to use a combination of tools. To help with this process, the National Trust is working to show models and profile communities that have developed innovative strategies through the online Teardowns Resource Guide.

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 10, 2007 at 6:32 pm

I have completed the first of three panels, it went along a lot quicker than I expected- about 5 hours of modelling time;

View link

View link

I anticipate while this clay model dries, I’ll start the second panel and come back to this one to “clean up” a bit when the clay firms up more.

Batwoman
Batwoman on October 6, 2007 at 6:30 am

nope, actual plywood. we bought a new construction home 10 years ago and I came into the house when it was framed. I don’t know about the homes built in more recent years, but ours has actual plywood studs.

Lostnyc
Lostnyc on October 6, 2007 at 6:11 am

This is true Batwoman, because buildings in this country don’t last long, and it wasn’t because of the materials- many study buildings that could have lasted 500 years were torn down in 30 because the new owner wanted to modernize or it would cost more to renovate than build new.
The way they built houses in the old days is a lost art almost, you would be hard pressed to find a contractor who even knows how to build a plaster and lath wall as was standard before around 1950. People dont build like that any more too because MOST people dont buy or build a house and live there 30 years, they may stay 5 before having to move.

Wood frames, you mean that pressed glue-board that passes these days as “plywood”? the stuff is garbage, cheap!

Batwoman
Batwoman on October 6, 2007 at 4:29 am

very cool. It’s funny you should post this. I drive down to Sycamore on a regular basis for work and the first time I went there I saw the old, original hospital. I walked in and it was great. I wanted to learn more about it. You don’t see workmanship like that anymore. Now you have houses that are slapped together with wood frames and sealed off with vinal siding. Doesn’t feel very sturdy on very windy days.

I keep thinking if I ever have the money, I’m going to build a house like they used to. Good quality materials, solid wood. None of this hollow core door crap.

I was even thinking of doing a basement into a theater. A brief idea popped into my head right after that (I should add, I spend way to much time in my car alone with my thoughts) I was thinking of doing it in an artdeco theme or maybe a little touch of Nortown.