Rialto Theatre

18 S. Grove Street,
Elgin, IL 60120

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Fire of the Rialto Theater Elgin Il.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Angelo on April 16, 2006 at 2:52 am

The Rialto was a very popular movie theater. After a movie many Elgin residents would treat themselves to a Soda Fountain creation at the nearby Esquire at 12 South Grove. The Esquire was a favorite to many for lunch or a delicious dinner. Originally when opened it had its own candy kitchen and sold boxed chocolates in the front part of the beautiful establishment. The building was owned by Waldo J. Bielenberg and his sister.

BrendanM on December 27, 2006 at 9:48 pm

Every auditorium built on this site met a tragic end. The DuBois Opera House, opened in 1870, was destroyed by fire in the mid 1880’s. The Opera House was rebuilt and later destroyed again by a tornado on Palm Sunday 1920. It was again rebuilt and later named the Rialto. When the Rialto burned down in 1956, there were plans to rebuild but nothing ever became of it.
As the Rialto was burning, two firemen were injured when they were figthing the fire through holes in the roof. As they were fighting the fire the roof started to cave in and they jumped off and fell over 10 feet onto the building next door.
The site is now occupied by the Fountain Square Condominiums.

kencmcintyre on January 19, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Here is an anti-trust lawsuit involving the Rialto, Grove and some other theaters in Elgin:

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 4, 2007 at 11:01 am

There is one theatre listed under Elgin IL in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide: the Elgin Opera House. There are no street addresses in the Cahn Guide. I assume that the Elgin O.H. sat on the site of the Rialto, and is not the same as the DuBois Opera House in Elgin. The Elgin O.H. was on the ground floor, had 1,110 seats and a stage which was 40 feet deep.

BrendanM on November 19, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Who changed the seating capacity? Its not right at all. The correct seating capacity for the Rialto should be 1,350.

Proof can be found at under “.4 Silver Screens and Crystal Sets” under Chaper VII at this website:


BrendanM on November 21, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for clarifying that up for me.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm

“The only photo I have is of the rear of the theatre by the Fox River and shows a Chicago Aurora & Elgin train and a neat Meister Brau beer ad on the back of the building.”

Riis Park—I’ve seen photos of that Meister Brau ad too, even though the CA&E expired years before I was born. I have a video on the CA&E which has some views of downtown Elgin, including the Rialto. The video was shot during the CA&E’s last days in 1957, so I’m wondering if the Rialto lasted that long.

spyder sam
spyder sam on November 12, 2014 at 6:38 am

Hey Paul , I like to see your Photo, I have a few more photos

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on July 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm


I don’t have any. The photos I’ve seen are from books & magazines.

AndrewBarrett on September 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm

It is too bad that this theatre burned down. However at least there’s the one photo of it (and, I hope, more).

According to “the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Rialto Th.” in Elgin, Illinois, originally had a three-manual Smith theatre pipe organ, installed in 1923. The organ had Spencer blower number 14426. Unfortunately, Mr Junchen did not have any additional information on the organ at the time of publication of the book, such as number of pipe ranks, or additional blower info horsepower, static pressure).

Does anyone know what happened to this organ, and where it, or its parts, are today?

Of course, given what happened to this theatre, plus the disdain that some theatre organ enthusiasts had (and, still have), for Smith organs, it is not very likely that it was bought/rescued by an early theatre organ enthusiast before the fire.

However, in my research I have identified at least a dozen Smith organs that were sold from theatres to churches in the 1930s-1940s, when many churches were too poor to afford a new organ and the theatres considered them surplus equipment after sound movies came in. These resales ensured the organs' survival for at least a few more decades.

At three manuals and (probably) from 10 to 12 ranks of pipes, this organ would have been amongst the very few larger theatre organs built by Mr. Smith’s short-lived own Chicago firm, the Smith Unit Organ Company, after the successful Seeburg – Smith partnership ended in 1921, and before he moved to Geneva, Illinois in 1924 to found what would later become the Geneva Organ Company.

As the builder of my beautiful two-manual console, I have an especial interest in all of the organs built by this small company and would love to know more about this one. Thanks!

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