Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

Unfavorite 20 people favorited this theater

Showing 26 - 50 of 233 comments

kencmcintyre on November 26, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Telephone number in 1954 was ROgrsPk 4-4224.

eddiet on September 3, 2008 at 3:31 am

I remember going with my cousins to see Saturday afternoon double features at the Nortown. Seems they always included one Dracula movie. There used to be a little shop next door that sold candy and maybe even popcorn that you could buy and sneak into the Nortown. I think the last movie I saw at the Nortown was Taxi Driver when it first came out. Sat up in the balcony. Loved the Nortown. Real shame it’s gone.

Batwoman on March 18, 2008 at 1:31 pm and are a couple other options. With these two (don’t remember if you can do this with image shack as well) you can set up your own account and organize the images in folders and such.

Nortown on March 17, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I have images that I would love to post on this site but am not sure how…any suggestions?

Batwoman on March 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Ken, that picture is great! I’d love to see any and all pictures of Nortown like that, that people have. Still breaks my heart that she was destroyed and is now gone.

Batwoman on March 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Nortown, my sister thought she was seeing things. She swore she saw one on rand in Lake Zurich when we were going to Kirklands last week but we didn’t see it and guessed it was closed since information didn’t have the number.

check out their website though, they’re still on Devon.

kencmcintyre on March 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Here is some detail from the upstairs lobby ceiling:

Nortown on March 17, 2008 at 3:14 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 on March 17, 2008 at 1:38 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 on March 17, 2008 at 6:48 am

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 on March 7, 2008 at 5:29 pm

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 on March 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

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 on February 20, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Their are picture of the NORTOWN at this adress

Thay are in set nummber 17

thank you for your time.

SPearce on February 20, 2008 at 6:35 am

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 on February 19, 2008 at 11:16 pm

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 on February 19, 2008 at 9:46 pm

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 on February 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm

I just heard Wolfy’s is gone.

clyde88 on February 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Of Course that should be Wrigley field.

clyde88 on February 17, 2008 at 10:01 pm

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 on January 31, 2008 at 1:23 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 on October 21, 2007 at 11:34 pm

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 on October 14, 2007 at 10:50 pm

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 on October 14, 2007 at 10:48 pm

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 on October 14, 2007 at 9:33 pm

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 on October 14, 2007 at 9:50 am

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.