Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 151 - 175 of 228 comments

mp775
mp775 on October 23, 2006 at 3:19 pm

Nortown,

I’d be happy to add your photos to my page (the one Paul Fortini linked to). I’ll properly attribute them to you, of course.

Batwoman
Batwoman on October 16, 2006 at 9:50 pm

I would love to see pictures of the place when it was fully intact. I’ve decided that if I ever have the money, I’m going to hunt down the blueprints and rebuild this some place by my house. OK that sounds lazy but we don’t have anything like that up here and with all the transplants from the city, I think it would be more appreciated here than it would be back in the city. After all, look what happened to it there.

Broan
Broan on October 16, 2006 at 7:19 pm

There’s really no legal reason you couldn’t. But the “Add a Photo” feature on this site has been non-functional for a very long time now. Your best bet would be to use an online service like flickr.com, imageshack.com, or photobucket.com and post a link here.

Nortown
Nortown on October 16, 2006 at 7:12 pm

I was thinking the same thing…about the only thing recognizable from when I worked at the Nortown are the columns. I wonder what happened to the two metal shields that were on the lobby wall near the entrances to the main auditorium. They would have been among the first items removed for sale. I wonder how the plaster heads from the auditorium were removed for sale…with a reciprocating saw? I have many pictures of the Nortown from the late 70’s and early 80’s in storage. I hope to find them and place them here on this web site. Question for this site: some of the photos contain images of co-workers. Can I place these on this site?

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on October 16, 2006 at 2:25 pm

In reviewing the photos on the link I submitted, it is sad to see some of the destruction and vandalism that has occurred in the Nortown. Yet it’s amazing to see how much is intact there, specifically the paint and the gold-colored decor.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 13, 2006 at 10:37 pm

You know, it is bad. But it’s not THAT bad. If you want to see horrors, go and look at photos of the Palace in Gary, Indiana. Something could be done with this building. But, unfortunately (and somewhat understandably) it does not seem likely that any portion of the building will be reused.

Batwoman
Batwoman on October 13, 2006 at 2:50 am

I still don’t get how anyone could ruin a place like that.

If only I had the money to build another one….

oh and I had gone there during the triplex days. Even saw a movie upstairs. that was so wrong.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on October 13, 2006 at 2:41 am

Here are semi-recent photos of the Nortown. In viewing the “Upper Auditorium” photos, I now understand how it was tri-plexed.

View link

muscarello
muscarello on October 13, 2006 at 1:17 am

It is sad to see the current state of the Nortown, but it looks to be dead based on the pictures posted here. I saw a WTTW Chicago Tonight segment on the Uptown a few days ago and was inspired to track down information on the Nortown, and so here I am.

I grew up on the 6600 block of Campbell in the 50s and 60s and spent most of my free time in the Nortown and other north side movie palaces. It wasn’t very chancy for a 10 year old to ride public transportation alone to other north side locales or even to the Loop in those days. During one memorable Christmas break, when I was about 10, I attended the same matinee at the Nortown every day for a week, seeing a double bill of Rodan and Party Girl, the latter starring Robert Taylor and Lee J Cobb.

Although I had moved out of the neighborhood during the 70s I was back to visit the folks until my mother finally moved to the suburbs in 1992. The theater seemed to be transformed into something less attractive (and stranger on each visit.) There was a Church in there for a while, as someone else has posted.

In 1995, when my wife and I made one of our trips to Architectural Artifacts on Ravenswood, I walked in the door and was amazed at what I saw across the room. Even in a jumble of things that were piled on tables and randomly displayed I could see the remains of the Neptunic artifacts that had adorned the theater’s upper reaches â€" and I immediately knew what they were. There was no doubt in my mind, as I had spent hours staring at them while waiting for shows to start. My favorite icon was one of the available articles. And so I purchased the head of one of Poseidon’s seahorses. It is a fantastic plaster sculpture, was still then in excellent shape, and I now have a unique bit of artwork with a story behind it. The lights that had been mounted atop the light house towers high up above the theater floor were also available but were sadly too large for our house. The owner of the store had a large format paperback on America’s movie palaces on display, opened to a full page picture of the auditorium of the Nortown showing these artifacts (I have forgotten the name of the book.) He told me of the deplorable state of the Nortown’s interior and how he had stripped out the best of the remaining ornamentation.

The horse is visible in a picture displayed at View link If you look closely at the prow jutting out above and to the left of the exit doorway at the far left of the shot (and at about the midpoint of the left edge) you can see the head. For some reason I always contrived to sit on the aisle below the lantern hanging at that passage. I’ll post an image of the sea horse when I can find my camera.

Such is the sad state of affairs when these properties are no longer wanted because they are considered to be no longer useful and unattractive to the undiscriminating post-modern eye. Unfortunately the craftsmanship and artistic talent to reproduce such work is gone. With a few exceptions we will be left with pictures and memories. And a few of us will have some actual pieces of what was once magic in our lives. If anyone else out there had the opportunity to purchase or obtain some of the items that were salvaged share your story with the rest of us.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 7, 2006 at 1:48 pm

I don’t get it…the condos. Right now there are units going up all over the place; and, from what I hear a lot of them are not moving. The only thing I can figure is that there is a herd mentality in real estate similar to that found in the stock market. When the technology bubble burst, for instance, people still bought technology stocks actively for quite some time after. But it is so much easier to tell your broker to buy or sell 5,000 shares of XYZ on a given day. I would think that the cost of carrying real estate on your books and the fact that you cannot necessarily sell it when you want to would discourage a trend like that, as would the fact that you often need to obtain financing from a financial institution.

1) Turn an old theatre into retail in a busy commercial area, get tenants, get substantial rental income. I get it.

2) Tear a theatre down, pay minimal taxes on the land, wait for the neighborhood to turn around. Or just hold the theatre and let it rot if it is cheap enough to do that. Then sell the property for a capital gain. I get it.

3) Turn a theatre into a unique business venture that you have carefully planned, like a night club. I get it.

4) Tear down a theatre, get financing to build condos when there is already a big supply, end up sitting on the condos for years while you pay the carrying cost of your financing and taxes…I just don’t get it. And yet people continue to do it and banks continue to finance them.

There are important lessons about business and humanity in all of this. But I am not sure what they are yet.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on September 14, 2006 at 10:59 am

What I heard today on National Public Radio (WBEZ-FM) is that this place is definitely being torn down. In as much as I love all types of movie theatres, I must be realistic and realize that not all places can be saved. From looking at the above posts and links to photos, this place appeared to in very bad shape. I read the above link to the Sun-Times article and in defense of the owner, Mr. Patel, it sounds like he had good intentions.

I’m actually more upset about the potential loss of the Esquire Theatre. I know that its interior was gutted however a number of the Art Deco touches in that theatre have been retained. As has the marquee and facade, the loss of which would leave a gaping hole on Oak Street. The Esquire could be fixed up again, albeit not returned to a single-screen, and with proper programming it could be profitable again.

Batwoman
Batwoman on September 14, 2006 at 1:24 am

No kidding. I’ve found in the city (Chicago) that condos are the in thing, you see more of those built than anything else. I guess mainly because of the space. You can get more out of an old factory or warehouse by converting it to lofts or condos than you can tearing it down and building houses in its place. Where as in the burbs, you’d be hard pressed to find a condo or apartment. I’m in northern lake county and I’m not kidding you, condos and apartments are hard to find. When my friends say they’re moving into a condo or aprtment, I have to ask where and even with specific cross streets, I just can’t picture it. Its one of those things where I almost don’t believe it until I’m standing in the unit itself. They’re there, just hard to find.

Condos and homes are a fraction of the cost up here than they are in the city. You can get a good sized house up here for what you’d pay for a 1 bedroom condo in the city. You also won’t have to pay extra for parking because you have a garage. As much of a city girl as I am deep down, I can never move back. Anytime I drive into the city to visit friends or family that live in condos/apartments and I drive around looking for parking (because I know better than to pay for a parking lot) I’m reminded of why I could never move back.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 13, 2006 at 4:14 pm

In his defense it is a tough one. Even if the building were in great shape it would be difficult to turn a profit. Unfortunately, the building is trashed. I wouldn’t mind if he kept the lobby and exterior and carried out his project. But most developers don’t get that creative unless someone complains.

I don’t get all of this condo action. I know the baby boomers are coming and none of them are going to want to retire in Florida. But even so it seems like we must be heading for a bubble.

Batwoman
Batwoman on September 13, 2006 at 2:23 am

That is so WRONG! The story of the old Nortown just keeps getting worse. If only I had the money to build my own Nortown and use the original blueprints. I’d have a 21 century copy of the old place.

supercharger96
supercharger96 on September 13, 2006 at 2:12 am

I’m supercharger96. waves
The owner of the Nortown is seeking a Zoning change at a hearing expected to be on October 19th. The owner wants to demolish it because “the numbers don’t work” to keep it as a theater. He plans to replace it with condos and two small theaters to show pakistani movies.
View link

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 20, 2006 at 12:58 am

That is how it looked when it closed.

Broan
Broan on June 20, 2006 at 12:42 am

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture.

Batwoman
Batwoman on June 14, 2006 at 7:55 pm

I have a feeling that when some of you see this picture you’ll know who Belle and I are (we’re not in the picture of course). ;P

But you can see the top of Nortown in the back there. This was taken in ‘82. I don’t know if we have any other pictures where the building can be seen or not. I’ll look for them next time I’m looking through old pictures.

View link

I just wish I had my own pictures of the interior back before it was ruined. It’s interesting, in the 24 years I lived there, I never once went around the back of the theater. Those pictures on supercharger’s LJ were interseting to see. I always wonder if I know the owners of pictures around my old neighborhood.

mp775
mp775 on June 14, 2006 at 4:00 pm

Depite the selling off of a lot of the ornamentation, it looks like the Nortown had definite potential. The upstairs is in much better shape that I expected, if it hasn’t degraded significantly in the last two years.

CinemarkFan
CinemarkFan on June 14, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Any new word on what’s happening with this theater? If nothing happens within 3 years, I’ll see what I can do.

Broan
Broan on June 14, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I think it must have been the church that ruined it. An earlier commenter said thewy sold off a lot of decor too, right

Nortown
Nortown on June 14, 2006 at 10:58 am

Hello all:
Interesting Jerry that you saw Star Wars at the Nortown. I was an usher at the time. I had just started working there a week before Star Wars started. I recall that the movie being shown was “Rollercoaster” which was in Sensurround. We had those big black ugly speakers in the auditorium. By the way, we had Star Wars for about half a year. It started the summer of 1977. The first show started at 12:00 noon going through a midnight last showing. We actually had some showings that were sold out, even with the balcony open. I worked at the Nortown for over seven years, up until the time that it was tripled. Eventually I became a relief manager for Plitt Theatres, rotating between the Nortown, the Gateway, and Varsity (in Evanston)Theatres. The pictures that are posted of the current state of the Nortown break my heart. While I was an usher I painted the main floor lobby walls with a glaze paint. You can see the walls on some of the earlier posted images of the lobby. By the way, in these recently posted images of the current state of the Nortown you will see light blue painted ceilings. These are not original. It seems that somebody has painted over the beautiful ceiling murals that were on the second level. More heartbreak for me.

jvasilatos
jvasilatos on June 14, 2006 at 9:50 am

My blood is boiling >:–(

I think the last show I saw there was “Die Hard” after it had been split into three theaters. “Temple of Doom” before that.

Tragic.

JV