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The East Chicago library (the new branch on the east end of town, on Chicago Ave. I think) has boxes containing just about every attraction to ever play this theatre, including an opening day program. Gloria Dosen was curator, and a great “fan” of the Indiana Theatre, but I haven’t been there in maybe 10 years and she may not still be there. This is the second theatre I truely loved. Gary Rickert
I have some slides taken at the time of demolition which I haven’t looked at since 1972. I remember that there was snow on the boiler in one of the shots. I don’t think there was a basement. I don’t see how this theatre could have been called the LaGrange with another LaGrange Theatre just 3 blocks south.
Saw a movie at the LaGrange Theatre, for the first time in 35 years, (because what they had done to it was just too depressing) and while there is still work to do, including the main entrance, all I can say is WOW! They obviously got some good advice somewhere along the way. While it is not “traditional” with all sorts of gingerbread etc. it has a very “class” feel. And what a surprise over the new restroom/lounge area which is pretty much where the orchestra pit was. The original proscenium arch and soundboard with murals is there in all its glory- beautifully painted and lit. It was just like seeing an old friend you thought was dead. The only way it could have been better (other than restoring the single screen) would be if they had made the “tunnel” between the rear auditoria and the “grand” lounge area go all the way to the dome, so you could see the soundboard/prosceni um arch from the lobby end of this tunnel. The tunnel itself is very tall and has several chandeliers and has a nice feel. All in all, all areas are very bright except the auditoria which are all black, (except the original balcony fronts) but very comfortable. The old, very ornate balcony fronts have been preserved. It would have been nice if they had painted “people in the balcony” which you could see as you headed from the lounges to the main lobby. Even though it is not done, I was very impressed that they had taken an extra step to uncover and display some of the treasures remaining in this once decrepit theatre. A year ago I wouldn’t have given it any sort of chance at all. Business seemed pretty good, too. No commercials before the show, either. This area has always been “moneyed” but now is more “yuppie moneyed”. The staff seems very friendly and the future looks bright indeed.
Just an aside, I don’t think there was ever a theatre with a worse washroom arrangement (original). The ladies room was down a couple of stairs at the far end of the lobby and under the balcony stairs, opposite a fire exit; though I was never in there, it couldn’t have been more than a “2 holer”. The men’s room was under the main lobby down a stairway that couldn’t have been much wider than 2' with a turn ½ way down. To make things worse, the wall had a protrusion at the landing where the stairs turned back on themselves such that a broad-shouldered person had to turn sideways to pass, let alone meeting someone going the opposite way.
I have the relay from the original 3 manual 12 rank Kimball organ from the Grand Theatre playing the organ in my home. The console is in Wisconsin; I have no idea where the remainder of the organ is.
OK, so I assume that with Tom gone either no one knows who is now “in charge” or no one cares, the place is closed or…
OK, so who is in charge now?
Tom, how about a report on the progress of the renovation? Will there be an open house?
I would appreciate any update when there is any news on this theatre.
Tom, did you check the “Black loose-leaf binders” I told you about at the Theatre Historical Society. These are the B&K books – a wealth of information; I think there is one for each neighborhood.
How can I contact BigTomEH?
When I was growing up, and first became aware of the building (1954, I think) the canopy and marquee was still in place. I was just starting grade school at the time so my memory is a little hazy. As I recall, the marquee was a double sided thing, maybe 10" thick centered above the canopy with regular theatre letters. The only thing I recall ever seeing on it is CHICAGO AIR FILTER COMPANY or something very similar to that. I don’t know when the marquee was and canopy were removed, but I think it was prior to 1962. The building as remodeled has an EXTREMELY cheap and ugly front and a sign simply says “LAW OFFICES”. It has a new, pitched roof and appears to be well maintained, at least on the outside. There is a very good pizza place directly across the street which used to be a “Savings and Loan” when I was growing up. While always a very nice area, this business district is experiencing a minor resurgence with more restaurants and other businesses, so who knows.
Thank you for the “good” news. I only hope that you see fit to retain the color and “flavor” of the lobby. I think it was “masterfully” done and very “period” whenever it was re-done. If there is ever any interest in re-installing an organ there, I may be easily persuaded to install the one I now have playing in my home as I may need to move to smaller quarters in the next few years.
m2violin: I don’t know when it was removed but it can’t be much later than 1968 (I would have thought earlier). I think it was removed by a Larry Coleman and someone else. They tried to install it in a church. Terry Kleven found it in a house’s basement and sold
it to me in maybe 1970. I only got the console; I don’t know what happened to the rest of the stuff. Someone told me the 16' diaphone was left behind in the theatre and was disposed of sometime later by persons unknown. You can reach Terry at 612-331-2444. I know he knows more than I do.
I was first in this theatre in 1966 while it was still in “legitimate” movie operation; I was trying to buy the pipe organ at that time. The theatre was built with no stage, with the screen on an elaborate frame on the back wall. Later (I was told about 1930) the organ console was hacked apart and hauled out because the pit was being eliminated as part of a remodeling. False walls were built in front of the organ grilles (actually pipe facades) and a shallow stage was created. If you opened the inside exit doors and looked up as you went toward the outer exit doors, you could see all the original decoration of the front of the organ chamber and the intact pipe facades. All of the organ was on the left side, facing the stage. I did not get the organ, but that is another story. One of the projectionists was Tom Watson, who actually owned the projectors. He was on duty during the Chicago riots in 1967 (or was it 1969??). He heard people running through the vacant lot next door from his window in the projection booth. He decided to go downstairs and look out on Madison street after changing the reel (yes there were customers in the theatre) only to see both sides of Madison street in flames to the immediate East. He went back to the booth and when his relief man came in they decided to abandon their post. He put short carbons in, started the last reel, and left. The next day, his boss (still Lubliner & Trinz) said the manager had checked the theatre in the morning, expecting to see only ashes but saw the only damage was one cracked glass in a front door, and told Tom to report for work at noon as usual. He and the manager got there at the same time, went in, lit the marquee and prepared to open. In only a few minutes the police stormed the place and asked what in the hell they were doing. “Getting ready to open” they said “like hell” the police said and sood there while Tom and the manager shut down, locked up and left; they were closed for several weeks. In, I think, 1969 a guy named Cooper took over the operation (and the Lincoln & Dixie theatre in Chicago Heights too) and it became a “porno” house. Shortly after, he came in one day to find no power in the building. Investigating, he found all the copper bussbars and other wires had been stolen from the power room. The theatre never re-opened. About the same time, the Lincoln & Dixie in Chicago Heights suffered an arson fire on the stage and it never re-opened. Shortly after that, a friend of mine was looking for a pipe organ for his home, and I remembered the Four Star organ. Building ownership had passed to a Charles Rambert who owned the laundromat down the street. He had intended to turn the Four Star into a laundromat, but this never happened. In any case, my friend purchased the organ based on my description of several years before, but did not inspect it first. Armed with flashlights and a long extention cord a crew arrived to remove the organ. They found that when the copper from the power room was stolen, so were the chimes and all the metal organ pipes! Long story made short, the organ went down with the building. Oh, the regular organist in the ‘20’s was Merrill J. Isaacs. There was a radio station in the office tower next to the Four Star on the NW corner of Madison and Western and rumor had it that the Four Star organ was broadcast from there – rumor again – at least once by Jesse Crawford. The organ was an early-style straight Kimball, I think 7 ranks.
I remember trying to figure out why the building was built with what looked like an exit tunnel, open on one side leading from the front to the back of the building on the lobby end (west wall). There were other very odd features on that west wall which made no sense.
Oh, the roof trusses were on the OUTSIDE of the roof, like the Michigan theatre on 55th Street (also a Kimball) so there was no attic.
To “Life’s too short”, yes the theatre on the other side of Madison and the other side of Western was the Imperial. I remember the deteriorating brickwork near the top, near the rear (SW corner) to be incredibly thick for being so high up on the wall.
This theatre opened in late December of 1924, and was always the finest presentation of vaudeville and film; the bill changing as often as 5 times a week. The East Chicago Public Library has a box of photos, the opening day program and just about every advertisment that was used in the “glory days”. I was associated with the Indiana from 1966 until it closed in 1973 (I believe) by working on the organ (a 3 manual 10 rank WurliTzer “H” special), restoring the lighting and making other repairs. John Muri was organist there from 1927 until 1935. It was a “porno” house all the years I was there, but not your ordinary porno house. The domes, coves, borders, foot lights and organ grills were kept lamped in 3 colors and were used for every show. The curtains would open as the film started and close over the credits. Fresh popcorn, friendly staff and a double feature! The biggest crowd I ever saw there was on Mother’s Day (of all things) in the late 60’s – this was soft-core stuff and the place to take a date, believe it or not. The WurliTzer would serinade on Saturday nights before the show until the last year of operation. I remember a sign in the lobby BALCONY OPEN FOR COUPLES ONLY. The building finished its life as a church of all things and was demolished in about 1985. The Hooser in Whiting is nearly identical but is maybe 30 feet shorter; the balcony in each had 2 rows of seats and a wide pramanade.
I have large photos of the opening but I don’t know how to submit them. Theatre Historical Society has them too. The WurliTzer organ lives on in very good condition in the Tivoli theatre in Downers Grove, Il. and is played before and between the shows on weekends.
I have the original 3 manual console from the Kimball pipe organ form the Catlow connected to the organ in my home. I believe the remainder of the organ was scatered to the winds. Anyone want more info.?
To Michael LeVan – the Patio always was always (and still is) the Patio (closed) – the Avalon was and still is the Avalon (closed).
There seems to be some confusion and I may add to it. To the best of my knowledge, La Grange had 3 theatres. The La Grange that we all know, the Park on the north side of the Burlington tracks and the west side of La Grange Road and then there was an Illinois Theatre which was on the east side of the street (long, long, long gone). The 39 address would have been about right if it was 39 south if it was at La Grange Road and Ogden on the Southeast corner it would have had to have been 39 North. I was told the Park was originally an auto dealership. The La Grange had a 4 manual 10 rank Barton Theatre organ, and the Illinois had at one time a 2 manual 3 rank Kilgen Theatre organ and a 2 manual 3 rank Moller Theatre organ. As far as I know, the Park never had an organ, but may have had a photoplayer or the like. I remember the La Grange had an unusual seating arrangement where, probably because the auditorium was very wide, the side seats curved very much toward the stage, rather than getting very narrow (one or 2 seats) near the front. The aisles second from the walls were then very curved near the front, making the aisles seem much longer than they were.
I would like to do anything I could to see the building restored. If the dome is intact, then the procenium soundboard murals may be too. B&K restored the interior paint, wallpaper etc. in ‘66 or 67’. The lobby still has the very well done look of the 40’s(?) rennovation.
Actually the Lincoln & Dixie Theatre opened on March 15, 1921. I have the original Kimball pipe organ in my home; I have owned it since 1967. It was indeed 9 ranks, but had a “straight” console and only 2 unified ranks – no so-called “toys”. A xylophone was added in and a Kinura rank replaced the Clarinet in 1929 as part of a general building facelift. I have some rather dark slides or the interior from 1967. When I bought the organ the theatre was still being operated by the B&K “Great States” theatres. The manager had recently been transfered there form the Orpheum in Springfield, Ill. and was cleaning and re-lamping the interior. The final operator was someone named Cooper who also operated the 4-STAR (built as the WILSON) at Madison and Western in Chicago; these were “Porno” houses. Persons unknown hid out in the 4-STAR one night and proceeded to remove all the copper from the electrical equipment; the Lincoln & Dixie fire occured about the same time. Neither theatre opened again. Theatre Historical Society has some “opening” interior pictures and the Chicago Heights website has a picture of the exterior. That’s it for now.