Photos favorited by LouRugani

  • <p>Woods marquee during the 1960 Garrick demolition protest in 1960. Richard Nickel on far left.</p>
  • <p>Bob Boin, Dave Syfczak and Jimmy Wiggins are volunteers who helped take care of the Uptown Theatre. The Uptown’s protectors have lent a collective hand to historic properties ranging from Wrigley Field to the Chicago Theatre. “When you love a place like this, it’s in your heart,” said Jimmy Wiggins. “They’ll never build anything like this again. I mean, just look at it.” The men have endured ownership changes, broken promises, false starts, late-night alarms, pigeon poop and oil fumes. They’ve teetered from I-beams several stories above the stage in order to repair roof drains, shooed away intruders, and sacrificed countless hours of their nights and weekends — and, in some instances, their retirements. “Very few people know about them, but they’ve been heroes,” said Jerry Mickelson, co-founder and co-owner of Jam Productions, which has owned the Uptown since 2008. “I don’t know that I could have bought the building without them, because it might not have been standing.” The guardians include three men who have helped protect the theatre since the 1980s: restoration expert Curt Mangel, 68; retired civil engineer Bob Boin, 72, a longtime volunteer on Chicago theater restoration projects; and Jam’s facilities manager, Wiggins, 57, who also oversees the Vic and Riviera theaters on the North Side. Retired Chicago police officer Dave Syfczak, 66, who watched movies at the Uptown while growing up in the neighborhood, has been a volunteer security guard and handyman since the 1990s. Those four lead a larger list of people who have contributed to the Uptown’s survival. Most have worked as volunteers, with approval of the property’s various owners. “I always told the guys, ‘Just keep it alive and its time will come,’ ” said Mangel, who now lives in Philadelphia. “By the grace of God, the economy and everything else, the right things came together. We’re overjoyed that day has finally come. The people of Chicago are not going to believe what they have when it’s done.” Farpoint principal Scott Goodman credits the caretakers for the Uptown’s survival and said their dedication demonstrates the strong pull many people feel toward it. “It was years of backbreaking work and we had several (redevelopment) deals fall apart, which was heartbreaking,” Mangel said. “I don’t regret it one bit. I’m very proud of the guys for sticking with it and keeping the torch. I passed the torch and they kept it burning.” To prevent pipes from freezing, the men burned thousands of gallons of motor oil in an old boiler, which took hours of exhausting work, fumes that frequently left people in the boiler room feeling sick, and black smoke pouring from the building, which would cause neighbors to call 911. “We had to call the Fire Department to let them know we were going to start the boiler,” Syfczak said. When firefighters were called, the Uptown guardians hustled to meet them out front. “Or else they’d use their key to come in,” Syfczak said. “And their key was an ax. So I repaired the doors three or four times too.” One time in the 1990s on a late-night security check, Wiggins discovered homeless people huddled around several campfires on the building’s marble floors. Other intruders, including metal scavengers, would set off the Uptown’s alarm. “When I lived a block away, I’d have to go scare the bejesus out of someone who was in the building,” Mangel said. Looting led to the decision to pack up ornate chandeliers and other fixtures and transport them to the Sanfilippo Foundation’s Place de la Musique museum in Barrington and other Chicago-area locations, where they’ll remain stored until the late stages of the theater’s restoration. “That was painful for us, because part of the beauty of the building is the magnificent light fixtures,” Mangel said. “But we had to do it or they would all be gone.” Syfczak once decided to clean a wall of pigeon poop near the theater’s front windows. The pending renovation is validation to those who thought the theatre was worth saving but, as they move into the background, “There is a little tinge of almost depression when you’re no longer involved with it,” said Boin. “We have to give up our clubhouse,” Wiggins joked. Then he turned serious. “We’re overjoyed that the building is going to be restored and used again, because it really comes alive when there’s people in here,” Wiggins said. “This is fun. This has been our sanctuary. I think we’ve all enjoyed it. But when you see people here smiling and looking at it, and the building comes alive, that’s the best gift of all.”</p>
  • <p>Road Theatre auditorium in Chicago in 1938</p>
  • <p>December 17, 2017 restoration rendering by Kahler Slater.</p>
  • <p>Derelict HI-WAY OUTDOOR Theatre (Wadsworth, Illinois) concession building, restaurant and second-floor projection tower in 1976.</p>
  • <p>This is a front view of the Barton organ console that was once installed in the Gateway. The organ was 10 ranks, and installed in 1927 as #252</p>
  • <p>October 3, 2016.</p>
  • <p>Grand Opening, April 11th, 1926</p>
  • <p>At opening in 1912.</p>
  • <p>At opening in 1912.</p>