Highland Theater

7859 S. Ashland Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60620

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Highland Theater

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Opened in 1926, the Highland Theater, located in Chicago’s predominently African-American South Side, was designed for the Ascher Brothers circuit by the firm of Newhouse & Bernham. This local architectural firm also designed the last of several versions of the McVickers Theatre in the Loop.

Like that theater, the much-larger Highland Theater, which could seat over 2,000 and featured extensive terra-cotta decoration on its facades. One entrance, the main entrance, was on Ashland Avenue, the other, on 79th Street.

The theater also had a towering vertical marquee which was lit up with hundreds of lightbulbs and could be seen for blocks.

Both vaudeville and motion pictures were on the program at the Highland Theater for its first couple decades of operation, even after the theater was acquired by Warner Brothers in the 1930’s. However, by the 1950’s, it switched to movies-only.

The Highland Theater closed as a movie house more than three decades ago, but it was later converted into a church and conference center, a role it continues to serve today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

opus1100
opus1100 on March 28, 2009 at 9:35 pm

The Highland had a 4m 21r Barton Theatre organ, identical to the one installed in the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. From what I’ve heard the theatre manager let his kids romp through the organ chambers and they took a fiendish delight in squashing the soft metal pipes. The console remained in plain view in the auditorium and when I saw it was uncovered and very dirty. The organ was removed by a organ hobbiest and was restored,

Cam
Cam on July 30, 2009 at 1:13 am

A pic of the lobby, taken in 1992, is here:

http://www.mekong.net/random/cinema_photo216.htm

At the time, it was a church, and was well-maintained. I think I have a pic of the auditorium; I’ll try to post it if anyone is interested.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Would love to see it Cam. I’ve always wondered what the inside of this place looked like.

Cam
Cam on August 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Hi LTS — here’s a page with a couple of (medicocre) pics of the auditorium:

http://www.mekong.net/random/highland.htm

Sorry for the delay in posting these. Turns out that I had never bothered to print either of the photos from the auditorium, so I had to find the original negative, and scan that.

By the way… I’ve read many of your comments here over the past few years, and would love to ask you a few questions offline. If you wouldn’t mind that, feel free to email me sometime: cambodia at aol.com.

xine67
xine67 on October 16, 2010 at 8:58 am

HELP! What was the name of the now-demolished theater that once stood on the 7900 block of S. Ashland. It was on the east side of the street, just a block or so south of the intersection. It was torn down in the late 1980s, and was in a deplorable state by that time. I can’t recall the name & it’s driving me crazy.

spectrum
spectrum on November 13, 2010 at 6:04 am

This is currently the Ambassadors for Christ Church. They have done a beautiful restoration of the building both inside and outside. All the original features retained!

rivest266
rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Grand opening ad in the photo section for this theatre.

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