Comments from Scott

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Scott commented about Riviera Theatre on Apr 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

Here is a list of all of the architectural tours by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. The tours for neighborhoods and theaters are spotty, so there may not be anything available for next weekend. You may have to go on your own. Have fun!

Scott commented about Pantheon Theatre on Mar 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm

I just found a postcard showing the Pantheon theater from about 1918. It was an imposing structure with, what looked to be statues along the top edge of the roof. It is such a shame that Uptown has lost many of these grand buildings. That area is now just a jumble of fast-food restaurants and parking lots.

It is too bad that photos cannot be posted onto this site, otherwise I would add the postcard image.

Scott commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 24, 2008 at 10:53 pm

The Y-intersection you mention across the street from the Riviera has been given a huge restoration and make-over the past 5 years. There were three connected buildings that made the Goldblatt’s department store from the 1930s until the late 1990s. At that point, the masonry building toward the south was torn down and rebuilt as condos (it is a shame because that beautiful building should have been restored). The middle building and corner building toward the north were restored and turned into a Borders bookstore and more condos.

The Buena Memorial church was at the Y-intersection you mention at Montrose and Broadway. That building had a structural flaw and the roof collapsed in the mid-1990s. The remaining walls of the church were torn down and the lot sat empty for years. Just recently, a non-descript condo building was built on the site. It is too bad, because that site deserves a building that is architecturally significant like the old church.

Scott commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 15, 2008 at 11:37 pm

I checked again and I was able to see the 1924 photo. In the 1957 photo, there is a Peter Pan clothing store on the first floor retail space.

I am so happy that the Riviera theater never was “modernized!”

What is the story on the bar on the main floor in the Riviera? It looks old, but it cannot be older the the 1980s. Was it just designed to go with the rest of the interior?

Scott commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 15, 2008 at 6:45 pm

I agree, this renovation is better than any of us could have expected for this building. You are right about the windows. Also, the window details are too thin when compared with the originals. I wish that contemporary window manufacturers could duplicate the thicknesses used on vintage windows. It would make restoration projects look much better.

BW, I tried to open your photos from your Dec. 3 comment, but it says that I need permission to view them (this is after signing into Yahoo). Can you tell me how to view the photos.

By the way, the Jewel at Broadway and Montrose has a great photograph of the Riviera building from about 1957. It shows all of the details perfectly. Until I saw this photo, I assumed that the facade was put up sometime in the 1930s, but it was put up after 1957. From the photo, the building does not look like it was in bad condition. I guess they wanted to “modernize” it.

Scott commented about Sheridan Theatre on Feb 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm

The last incarnation of the Sheridan Theater was as a Mexican movie theater called the Palacio. I am not sure when it stopped being used as a synagogue, but it was the Palacio by the time I moved into the neighborhood. The Palacio closed sometime in the early 1990s and the building was boarded up. It was constantly being broken into and used by vagrants. And, from what I understand a human torso left over from a murder was found in the building. By the 1990s, It was hard to make out how beautiful the building had been because most of the original terra cotta had been covered with marble or granite slabs to make it into a synagogue. In fact, there were menorah symbols carved on the stone around the entrance. It was not until the building was being torn down that you could once again see the original terra cotta and the building’s splendor.

“Rehabbers” or developers dismantling or covering up decorative details on historic buildings is a classic scenario Chicago. When parapet walls need to be rebuilt or terra cotta needs to be repaired, many building owners take the least-expensive way out and remove or cover these details. Soon, no one realizes how beautiful these buildings once were and they eventually get torn down. One of my favorite recent Chicago preservation success stories is the Riveria Building at Lawrence and Broadway. This beautiful masonry and terra cotta building was covered with a glass and steel structure in the late 1950s. When they covered the building, any terra cotta details that stuck off beyond the surface were literally “shaved” down. This building looked like a wreck during the past 10 years and surely was a prime candidate to be torn down. Fortunately, a bank decided to move into the building and they removed the glass facade and restored the exterior with new brick and terra cotta. The only detail they did not restore was a terra cotta cap along the edge of the roof line.

Scott commented about Riviera Theatre on Feb 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm

I am so happy they renovated the Riviera Building. In fact, I am shocked that this happened. I always assumed this building eventually would be torn down because it looked so far gone.

My only regret is that they did not replace the terra cotta detail that was originally along the top edge of the roof. Other than that, the renovation is spot-on.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 11, 2008 at 7:17 am

When I first moved to Chicago in 1985, I looked at an apartment at 3934 Sheridan! You’re right, the L came way to close to the apartments. So, I had to pass and find another place.

Let me know when you post that film. It will be fun to see!

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Actually Charles, Daley and the alderman still have all of the power. You will note that even though there was a neighborhood meeting, and many people protested the condo development, the Rowland Funeral Home was torn down. I went to meetings when they were deciding what to do with lot for the recently torn-down Sheridan Theater. The alderman wanted a senior citizens home to go on the site. She actually bussed seniors into the meeting so they could argue with many of the neighborhood residents who wanted some other type of building to go into the site.

There was a recent series of articles in the Chicago Tribune about how the alderman get much of their campaign funds from developers who want to change zoning codes and get permission to build whatever they want, even if the residents do not want it.

In fact, when the neighborhood was down and out in the 1960s and 70s, two huge high rise subsidized buildings were built right on Buena and the street behind my building. So, there are now two 20-story buildings in a neighborhood of 2 to 4 story buildings. These buildings look absolutely ridiculous, they block the sun, they create their own wind tunnel effect, and they have ruined the scale of the neighborhood forever. All thanks to whatever brilliant alderman was in office at the time.

On a brighter note, I went to the Ace hardware store today, that is across the street from the Mode theater. I was delighted to find that a grocery store and fruit market still exists at 3942 Sheridan, right under the L tracks. It’s amazing that this address has been a small grocery store since the 1930s. 3944-46, the address of the old Sheridan Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge still exists as the Sheridan “L” Lounge and Liquor Store. It’s in sorry shape, but the facade still has broken pieces of the black Vitrolite that I am sure was there when it was a restaurant.

You can see the Sheridan Restaurant postcard on the compassrose blog. I will post a photo of the 3942 Sheridan grocery store advertising thermometer soon.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Charles, I went to the neighborhood meetings when the developer was seeking permission to tear down the Rowland Funeral Home for condos. Many people wanted to see the old house saved, since it was last remaining mansion on the Sheridan from the 1880s and 90s. Of course, those favoring the condos said that the house had little historic significance and was not worth saving. From your last visit to the neighborhood, you know who won that battle.

Is the St. Mary of the Lake convent to the north of the church? As far as I know, it is still a convent, but I will have to check the next time I drive by (maybe this afternoon).

Does anyone know what was on the southwest and northeast corners of Buena and Broadway. The northeast corner is now a parking lot. The southwest corner is a KFC, that recently closed (they say that condos are going to be built there). All I know is that what probably was once a vibrant corner is now a visual mess. At least the Broadena building is still on the northwest corner. I would love to see that building rehabbed someday. It has a lot of nice terra cotta details.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Yes, in the Hutchinson historic district (the area surrounded by Broadway, Montrose, Buena and Marine Drive) there is a large group of mansions that somehow escaped the ravages of time. They sell for between 2 to 3 million dollars, or more, when they come up for sale, but nowhere near the amount they would fetch if they were located in another area.

This area is officially part of Uptown, but called Buena Park. Before it was annexed into Chicago, it was part of the town, or village, called Lakeview. It was an grand area, with the Montrose Clarendon beach, the beautiful US Marine Hospital. The Frank Lloyd Wright Husser house, was built in 1899 on Buena at the lake. I am not sure when it was torn down, but it certainly wasn’t around for long.

I own a huge 3-flat building on Buena Avenue that was built in 1907. From what I have found out, it was one of the first apartment buildings built in the neighborhood. It’s a beautiful, grand building, but was a harbinger of how the neighborhood was about to change from single residences to apartment buildings. By the 1920s, apartment buildings were springing up everywhere in the neighborhood, and many of the old mansions (although at that point they were only 20 to 40 years old) were being torn down in the name of progress.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

You’re welcome. I think the best link is the arial view of Uptown and Buena Park from 1936. It’s amazing what kind of detail you can see.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 8:19 am

Charles and Sharon: Here are a few links that will get your heart pumping about Uptown’s history…
View link

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Thanks for the information, Sharon. Actually, Biasetti’s was still open until a few years ago, when it closed and reopened as the Cordis Brother’s restaurant.

It’s sorry to say that the last vestige of the Chateau area is the Chateau Hotel. From the reviews that I have read online, it’s nothing but a bug and drug infested dive.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:46 pm

BW, thanks for your post on the Philips-Overland dealership. Do you have any photos of the building from that time?

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 10:44 pm

I have always thought that the Nick’s Uptown looked like an auto dealership. After the dealership closed, it must have become the Cairo restaurant. When the building to the north was torn down to make way for Howard Brown, I took photos of the Cairo restaurant sign that was painted on the side of the Egyptian building. If I find the photos (they are missing in my many piles), I will post them.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I did not grow up in the area, and I am too young to remember when the Mode was open, but I have been collecting postcards from Uptown and Lakeview businesses from the 1910s through the 1960s. My goal is to piece together the business history of the area through postcards and brochures.

The Chateau area that has been mentioned probably refers to the corner where Sheridan and Clarendon Avenue came together. There was a huge English tudor style courtyard apartment building at that corner with tennis courts, a conservatory and lagoon. That building was torn down and replaced with a Chicago park district building and park. In the early 1930s, the Chateau Hotel was built at 3838 Broadway. That building is still there and exists as an SRO.

At 3944-46 Sheridan Road, there was the Sheridan Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge. The postcard I have, which looks like it’s from the mid- to late-1940s, says that the restaurant had been in business for over 40 years. That address no longer exists, but it seems like it was almost at the southwest corner of Sheridan and Irving Park Road.

One door south, at 3942 Sheridan Road, there was the Chicago Fruit Market. I have a advertising thermometer from that store. It says the store was a member of Grocerland and they sold all kinds of fruits, vegetables and fancy groceries. Their number was LAKeview 7406.

North of Irving Park Road, in the building where Nick’s Uptown is today, there was a place called the Cairo Restaurant. The building has some very distinctive Egyptian terra cotta details. About 10 years ago, they tore down a building next door, and you could easily see a painted sign for the restaurant. It looks like it was from the 1920s.

Across the street from the Sheridan theater, and just a little farther north, there was the Hotel Stratford at 4131 Sheridan Road. The postcard I have says it was an elegantly furnished hotel of 200 rooms situated in the finest section of uptown Chicago. Convenient to all transportation. Bathing beach nearby. This building is still there, but it is now a rehabilitation center.

Scott commented about Nortown Theater under demolition on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:05 pm

I know that it is hard to find use for these big, old theaters, but it just broke my heart to see the Nortown get torn down this summer. Another Chicago landmark gone forever.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Nov 18, 2007 at 9:15 pm

It was kind of scary going into the Mode Theater building when it was in the final stages of demolition, but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. There was not much left by the time I got in there to take the photos. I wanted to try to remove the top of the remaining column, but there was no way I could get to it without making a public spectacle of myself.

I spent a lot of time in the Sheridan Theater, the summer that it was torn down, and it was an amazing experience. I was able to get quite a lot of plaster and terra-cotta goodies (the pieces that Architectural Artifacts left behind). It still makes me sad every time I drive down Sheridan and see the Ruth Shermer retirement building (that is what was built on the site).

I added a few more Mode Theater demolition photos to the file, so check them out. The link is two posts above this one.

Scott commented about Mode Theatre on Nov 18, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Here are some photos of the Mode Theater as it was being torn down. It was a very sad summer to see that building come down. Another victim of urban development.

View link

Scott commented about Sheridan Theatre on Nov 18, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I have lived in Buena Park for 17 years and have seen both the Sheridan Theater and the Mode Theater torn down.

The Sheridan was torn down after the alderman decided that the site would be better served by a generic-looking senior citizen’s building. It took over 6 months to tear down the impressive building. During that time most of the important terra-cotta was removed by Architectural Artifacts, including the huge frieze at the top of the building. I managed to salvage many pieces of decorative plaster and terra-cotta. However, my biggest thrill was be able to roam throughout the building (dangerous, I know) as it was being torn down. Early in the dismantling process, it was possible to go up into the catwalk surrounding the suspended plastic ceiling. The orchestra pit and the dressing rooms were still intact. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But, I recall being extremely sad realizing that this landmark building would be no more.

I took many photos of the building as it was being torn down, but I will have to locate them. They are packed away in storage.

The Mode Theater was located to the south of Irving Park Road on Sheridan Road—about two blocks from the Sheridan. In its later years, it was a Mexican grocery store. However, you could still tell that it had been a theater at a previous time. This theater was much smaller than the Sheridan, so it was probably easier to convert to another business.

This theater was torn down about 2 years ago to make way for a luxury condo development. I was able to take some photos of the structure after the grocery store effects had been removed. You could still see many of the details from the original theater. Another sad day. Here are some photos that I took of the building as it was being torn down.

View link

I am sure that this theater was called something other than Mode in its early years. Does anyone know the name?