Darb Theatre

33 N. Main Street,
Manteno, IL 60950

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Darb Theatre

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Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on January 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Bryan Krefft, What do you think of a guy who adds theaters on the Atlantic Coast but dosen’t add a theater that’s just a mile away from his house? That’s me. Shame on me! Course I’ve known about the Darb Theater but always wanted to get more facts before I added it to CT. I volunteer for the local community cable TV station and have taped over 80 programs (not counting sports) in the last 4 years and I want to do one with the Manteno Historical Society and some old timers talking about the businesses on Main Street and especially the Darb Theater but haven’t got to it yet. I think another theater was over near the American Leigion parking lot. Of course you always get a good argument going whenever they start talking about what business was in what building, which I think is a riot. Alas I haven’t got to it yet so I have never made an entry yet and you so to speak beat me to the punch, so let me add what I do sorta know.
This is what I know from talking with a former long time Manteno mayor and life long resident of Manteno whose son is President of the Manteno Historical Society and form my own observations. Although some think the theater burned down it did not and I can’t remember for sure (the former mayor is in Florida right now), but after it closed someone else was going to remodel the theater but after about 10 years never did finish and finally I think a Mr. Owens took the building over, put a “new” front on the building which is 2 storefronts wide, made offices on the first floor and appartments on the second floor. An addition was added to the back of the building. A stone in the brick in the front of the building states “OWENS BUILDING 1972”. 2 lawyers (including mine)and a CPA are in the offices. I understand that Mr. and Mrs. Owens had moved to Florida and that Mr. Owens has died.
The address is 33 North Main. I’m sure this was the theater because when you look at the roof from the alley you can still see the big vents up at the front of the building up on the roof for the projectors.
In the Manteno office of the Kankakee Daily Journal they have a nice photo on the wall labeled “St. Aubin Hardware Fire January 1951” (no mention of a Darb Theater Fire)
which shows this hardware store on fire, but to the south of it is the DARB it’s marquee reads
“MR MUSIC WITH BING CROSBY (release date 28 Dec 1950)
ALSO DALLAS IN TECHNICOLOR (release date 30 Dec 1950)
The flames are blowing to the north so the theater seems to be safe?
The address 417 Chestnut Street is located 4 miles east of "downtown” Manteno out in the “country” at the former Manteno State Hospital which at one time was an over 8,000 patient psychiatric hospital. It closed in 1985. Now it’s called Diversatech, part of it is Illinois Veterans Home at Manteno, an industrial park, housing developments, a resdential treatment center and good buildings just deserted or demolished.
the building at 417 Chestnut Street the Mitchell Cottage was a 1 story brick H shapped building that took up an entire block and was built in the early 1930’s and would never have been a theater. It was torn down about 2 years ago. I have thought about listing Hinton Hall out at the hospital as a theater, but I have to check into that alot more.
It’s possible Main Street used to be Chestnut Street, but 417 would put it in the grain elevators of the Farmers Elevators Company of Manteno. Perhaps sometime ago the streets and numbering system in town got changed all around?
I would be interested to know where you got the address and that it was demolished.

“Gee Dad, it was a WurliTzer!”

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on January 10, 2008 at 7:23 am

Bryan, thanks, I think those are both errors, or at least have a logical explanation, but I will check that all out with the Manteno Historical Society and some of the old timers here in town. Thanks for making the entry which is sorta forcing me to check into this.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, This is CINERAMA!” Lowell Thomas

JackClark on February 26, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Don’t think I can tell you much about the Darb that you don’t already know. The interior was wine curtains and gilt wood carvings. It had an organ, but I don’t know that I ever heard it played. In the early 50s, a kid could get into the Saturday matinee for ten cents. They did the usual, continuous showings: Cartoon-Feature 1-News Reel-Feature 2—and back to the Cartoon, again. For the Saturday matinee, there was usually a Serial. Generally, a silent cowboy film. Nobody ever tried to get to a movie at the start, you just walked in, sat down, and stayed until you saw something you’d already seen. (“‘Scuse me. This is where I came in. 'Scuse me.) Miss that place.

Jack Clark
Idyllwild, CA

formerly from Manteno, IL

JackClark on February 27, 2008 at 7:23 am

BTW, I was living in Manteno in January 1951 when the hardware store fire happened. I was only five and a half at the time, so I don’t remember that fire. BUT I certainly went to the Darb Theater a whole lot of times when I was five, six and seven, so I don’t see how the Darb could have been affected.

Jack Clark
Idyllwild, CA

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 4, 2009 at 9:40 am


As best as I can find out, the theater opened sometime around the late 1930’s and closed in the 1960’s. In 1940 it was owned by Anderson and in 1964 by Armentrout Circuit.

TomWyse on June 18, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I worked at the Darb until it closed, the year I don’t remember, but I was a junior in school. At the time it was owned by a Robert Schneider of Kankakee, now deceased. I was kept on by Mr. Schneider to help with the remodel and have no idea why everything stopped. Also, I was there the day the tornado knocked the chimney through the roof and the screen. I used to take the clinkers out of the coal fired boiler and refill the coal scuttle as one of my first duties of the day when I arrived. It was at the Darb that I fell in love with Haley Mills and while operation the projectors got totally involved in the movie and forgot all about the cues for changing over to the other other projector. and there was the MGM lion roaring back at her! Crap!

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on January 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm



TomWyse on March 22, 2012 at 10:31 am

I guess my train of thought crashed in my above comment. My most memorable changeover was when an actress heard a knock at the door, said, “John, John, is that you?” as she opened the door the second cue hit the screen and I hit the change switch only to have the MGM lion roar back at me. The Hailey Mills episode just simply went to end of reel whatever and then blank screen.

daveandrick on July 15, 2015 at 9:53 am

I’ve read with great interest what’s been written about the Darb Theatre. Our family owned a house across the tracks, a block north. We had a grocery on main street which is now part of the U.S. Post Office. My dad built the building now housing the Village offices (formerly the location of Manteno News), just north of the Darb on the same block. My mother operated a beauty shop there. When St. Aubin’s Hardware store burned down, it left a void on Main street. But the town was happy that the Darb was spared. It did have heavy smoke damage. I was six. While in grade school, we were bussed to 33 Main Street, the Darb’s address, which has never changed, to see cartoons and receive a box of “zoo cookies.” Everyone looked forward to this treat. The theater remained in business well into the ‘60’s. As a matter of fact, following our '62 prom, our senior class had a special showing of “Breakfast at Tifini’s” at midnight. Many parents were upset that we would be seeing that particular film; however, it has, as a result, remained one of my favorite films. Next door to the Darb was Harvey’s Funeral Home which was bought out by Art Brown. At that time we had only two funeral homes, Harvey’s and Gordon’s, next to the fire station. Also, on the same block was Ed’s Candy Kitchen. A block north, a couple from Kankakee opened “Clara Mae’s.” Between Hilsenoff’s Drug Store, Ed’s and Clara Mae’s, we teenagers had plently of places to hang out. Cliff Ownes built my dad’s house, one of the first, across from the former High school, on Marquette Drive. Mr. Owens did purchase the Darb, tear it down, and rebuild as was mentioned in the before-mentioned article(s). Art Brown, who acquire Harvey’s, was able to save a couple of the interior art-deco lights before the Darb was demolished. Many of the former business owners built homes near my parents. One of my favorite memories about downtown Manteno was the American Legion Post’s annual three-mile long parade. It was bouncing! Clowns and a carnival was set up next to the Legion. My dad was commander of the post for one year. He started the Manteno Little League. I grew up in the splendor of “small town America,” and I can honestly say that it was a good life, being in Manteno.

daveandrick on July 15, 2015 at 7:48 pm

One more thing. Manteno State Hospital did not have a movie theatre. A movie was presented weekly at the Auditorium on the State Hospital grounds.

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