Congress Theater

2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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Showing 51 - 71 of 71 comments

sweety95 on September 17, 2007 at 9:23 am

I went to a party at the Congress theater 2 days ago, it was great to be inside this landmark theater. All the seats on the main floor have been removed, and there was some damage to the domed ceiling that was visible from below. There are lots of great details that are still there though,like old signs , vent covers, and the big staircase to the upstairs balconies.

GrandMogul on April 10, 2007 at 11:16 am

Yes, it’s true, Red Skelton did play the Congress!
Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, May 19, 1959, s. 3, p. 10, c. 6:
SKELTON TELLS OF CHANGE, by Stephen Harrison

Richard Skelton, also known as Red and once fired here by popular request, returned Monday to the scene of the crime—rehired by popular request.

Can’t Vie with Legs
Having abandoned Vincennes, he was playing vaudevile in such landmarks as the Haymarket, the State & Congress, and the Gem, where aficionados paid a lot more attention to burlesque girls' legs than they ever did to Skelton.

[At the time of this item Skelton was headlining at the famed Chez Paree.]

GrandMogul on February 8, 2007 at 10:47 am

An ad in the Chicago Tribune, Sunday, September 5, 1926 announced:

OPENS TODAY AT 1 PM, Lubliner & Trinz' magnificent new CONGRESS theatre, 2135 Milwaukee Ave., Near Armitage; in person as special guest, Mary Philbin, Universal Screen Star; Miss Philbin will release 1,000 balloons from the roof of the Congress Theatre at 12:45 pm, each containing a voucher for a piece of bona fide real estate; grand opening programme: Reginald Denny in “Rolling Home”; vaudeville “Carnival of Venice,” a surprise of instrumental music.

GrandMogul on February 8, 2007 at 8:45 am

The Congress Theatre went “talkie” in 1928, as this ad informs the public—–

Ad from the Chicago Tribune, Saturday, November 10, 1928:

TODAY, Complete New Policy, come and hear this, new marvel of “sound” presented with our newly installed VITAPHONE-MOVIETONE, come on everybody! See and hear this thunderous inaugural program, the talking and sound sensation, “Women They Talk About,” hear the beautiful mellow voice of Irene Rich, hear William Collier, Jr., Claude Gillingwater and Audrey Ferris talk.

Star Vaudeville Acts in sound. Van & Schenck, “The pennant winning battery of songland”; see and hear Abe Lyman, and his “Good News” Orchestra; see and hear Giovanni Martinelli, famous Opera Tenor; the First “Our Gang” Comedy in sound, “School Begins”; see and hear Fox Movietone News

Broan on December 3, 2006 at 6:41 pm

Here are photos of this theater.

Broan on September 18, 2006 at 5:10 pm

The vertical sign’s frame has been mostly disassembled now.

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture, with the marquee still sporting the original 60s Congress lettering.

Broan on October 4, 2005 at 4:57 am

While they didn’t ultimately change the name, I would not be surprised if they did. The banners came down shortly after I made that post, and have been replaced by banners advertising an upcoming event. I wish I had gotten a closer look. So, either it was for an ad shoot or something, or they were doing testing of some sort. I would not be at all surprised if it does become a Nokia Theatre- AEG has projects in LA, Dallas, and NYC, and nothing in Chicago yet. The Congress now often hosts shows from House of blues- maybe they will switch affiliations.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 25, 2005 at 5:47 pm

Well…we have the Ford Oriental and the Cadillac Palace. So why not? If it helps the building survive, I am all for it.

Broan on August 25, 2005 at 4:31 pm

At some point in the last week, signs have gone up heralding a re-christening of the theatre as the Nokia (like the cell phone company). I personally have mixed feelings about this- on one hand, I am sad to see it lose the name it has held for most of its years (aside from the Teatro Azteca/Cine Mexico days), but on the other this will likely bring more money into keeping the place up, to bolster the Nokia name. While it is amazingly intact inside, it needs a lot of maintenance. Perhaps it will even recieve a proper marquee again.

Broan on May 27, 2005 at 8:07 am

Yeah, they’re the same boards that say “Congress Theatre”, actually, it’s embossed through.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 27, 2005 at 8:03 am

Well…I have to admit that the “n” might not have been there. But, I think it was. I took several pictures of the theater at this time. Perhaps “Vincenete Fernandez” is an accomplished local businessman or something? Whatever the outcome of that discussion is, this was certainly the theater’s name (rather than an attraction). It was mounted above the backlit attraction boards on either side of the marquee.

Englewood on May 26, 2005 at 10:31 am

Who is Vicente Fernandez? (No ‘n’ in his first name.) He is one of Mexico’s most popular singers, called the ‘King of the Rancheros.’ Born Feb. 17, 1940 in Huentitlan del Alto in Jalisco, Mexico.
He has recorded a total of 56 albums. At one point, he performed (for free) at the La Plaza de Mexico in front of an audience of 54,000, still a record for the Plaza. He still performs. Just recently, Fernandez announced that he planned to open a mariachi theme casino in Las Vegas called Guadalajara, Guadalajara.
He probably appeared at the Congress Theater in 1988.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 26, 2005 at 10:06 am

The real question is: who is Vincente Fernandez?!?! I would say the theater had this name out front around 1988.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 24, 2005 at 9:47 am

Vincente Fernandez was the name on the marquee, actually.

Broan on May 24, 2005 at 7:03 am

It was also once known as the teatro juan fernandez

TRAINPHOTOS on May 23, 2005 at 11:26 pm

I believe that the Congress Theatre, during the 1970s and 1980s, was known as the Mexico Theatre. They took the letters down from the vertical marquee and stored them right on the regular marquee! You could easily see this from the nearby L (which is now called the Blue Line).

Broan on August 19, 2004 at 12:46 pm

According to their site, it was built by the Lubliner & Trinz chain, also was on the Orpheum vaudevill circuit, and went to Balaban & Katz in 1929 with the rest of the Lubliner/Trinz chain. The vertical framework is still in place, although to be honest, it kind of disfigures the ornate facade. Another prior name for the congress in its spanish-language period was the cine mexico, and these name changes presumably are why the vertical is missing and why the marquee sports a rather bizarre modern backlit/retro font look on a 60s style frame.