Rockne Theatre

5825 W. Division Street,
Chicago, IL 60651

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AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on June 20, 2014 at 10:05 pm

What a cool-looking building, I’m glad it’s still standing and being used for something!

According to David Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 144, the Ambassador (Rockne) Theatre in Chicago originally had a 4 manual, 14 rank Geneva theatre pipe organ installed in 1925. The serial # of the organ’s blower was 17083. According to the Geneva chapter of the aforementioned book, this was one of the firm’s “show” organs and had what may have been the only 4-manual console built by the firm.

According to pg. 142 of the same book, the four-manual console from this organ was in daily use at the Elm Skating Club “as of 1983”. It turns out that through a few unfortunate events, the rink closed in the late 1980s and was torn down shortly thereafter. I do hope the console (and/or the rest of the organ, or parts of it) still exist somewhere today.

Does anybody know any more about this organ? I’m researching it for the Geneva Organs history page on my upcoming website.

Thanks!

Remo
Remo on March 30, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Remember the “Mudhole”? – I Certainly Do, Spent A Lots Of Time In That Water. It Was Actually A Cool Public Pool, Come To Think About It.… LOL

My Cousin And I Went To Byford Then St. Angela’s…!

Also A Little Ma & Pa Store On The Way To School Mary & Joe’s..!

Joe Fry’s “Standard Gas Station” Corner of Iowa & Agusta..!

Went To The Rockne On Saturdays Mostly..! (House On Haunted Hill)..!

  • Many Many Others..!

WOW What Memories, I Was A Fucking Kid..!

Griffey30
Griffey30 on March 17, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Does anyone who worked there remember the manager? Think his name was Jim Masino

warnergrand
warnergrand on January 24, 2013 at 9:47 am

Cindy – does this theatre have a balcony? How large is the lobby – how ornate is the auditorium?

Cindycrawford
Cindycrawford on September 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm

The candy store I spoke of was on Division near Waller road not Wheeler

Cindycrawford
Cindycrawford on September 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I lived just down the street from the Rockne at 1242 N. Waller avenue from 1963-1967. I was 6 when we moved there from Wash.D.C. but back in those days mothers kicked the kids out and said,“ come back before the street lights come on”. I spent many a weekend waiting to get in this grand old theater.With the balcony and velvet curtains. there were these little romeo balconies along the walls that had big urns in them, which were lit up. Very awesome to a small child. I saw the Dave Clark 5, live as they premiered their movie.The line went around the building. Eventually I got in but had to crawl on the floor and under seats in order to get to the front so I could see the stage.All the teenagers were standing and yelling. I also saw some other actress Connie Stevens? premiering a horror movie. I believe Vincent Price was in it. Those were the good old days when you got cartoons before the movie. Heck I think there may have even been news reels! there wasn’t a whole lot on T.V. back then. Most times you’d see a movie once and never see it again.Reruns? Not a chance! no such thing. Me and Patty Olson would pull our wagon around the neighborhood collecting bottles. Then hit the candy store on the corner of Wheeler road. OMG! an honest to god candy store where you could get 3 pieces of candy for a penny!Everything laid out on parchment paper or in glass jars!does anyone remember the name of the store? But the Rockne was one of my favorite memories of Chicago. I remember everything about my time there. The Royal Airs drum and bugle corps who my father taught when he wasn’t running Sounds and Songs further up Division st. The great Blizzard that buried cars. Saint Angela’s Young elementary school which catered to children with special needs. Being able to go into a strangers homes during Halloween, for the little parties they held. OMG! How about the candy factory up the road that always smelled like Bazooka bubble gum? Those were the days my friend.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on June 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

The Rockne Theatre’s marquee was spotlighted in this 1941 trade article: boxofficemagazine

ktmcging
ktmcging on November 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Tomkonsoer, my brothers and I were at the Rockne practically every weekend during the 60’s. As we got older, we would venture down to the State, the Lake, or even the Mercury, but the Rockne remained our favorite. I remember the Sonny and Cher event, but don’t remember the DC5 show.

Tomkonsoer
Tomkonsoer on November 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I lived at 1050 N Monitor all during the 60’s and started ushering at the Rockne when I was 12. They still had lots of costumes left over from when they did live shows. Don’t remember Sonny and Cher, but it seems like the Dave Clark Five were there. Austin was a great neighborhood to grow up in, mostly hung around Chicago Ave. St. Angela’s, Key School, Austin Town Hall. Took drivers ed at Austin High. Remember the “Mudhole”?

SusanLocke
SusanLocke on September 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I lived in one of the two apartments above the theatre from Oct 1962 thru Oct 1963, we moved here from Rockwell and North Ave, I had transferred from Tuley High School. I loved that year. Attended Austin High School. But living there was totally unusual. You could hear the sounds of the movies , because the Projection Room was right down the hall. The Music Man was playing the week that we moved in and the next week it was The Birds !!!! Noisey. We had to go down into the lobby , by the main front doors to pick up our mail. And it was just neat being a teenager there. There on either sides of the stage , were dressing rooms. We were only there a year and moved to Stone Park after here in 1963 and I attended Proviso West then. I would love to here from any fellow students from Austin who knew about and attended the Rockne….contact me at or Susan Besaw on Face Book…would love to hear from you !!!

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Nice 80,s photos.

CharlesR
CharlesR on July 6, 2010 at 4:04 pm

The 1920-21 Film Daily Yearbook lists an Ambassador theatre in Chicago. Is it possible that this theatre was built earlier than 1924 or is this a different theatre? (No other information listed.)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

The exchange in 1954 was AUstn 7-3266. As you can see by the ad immediately above, the exchanges were no longer being used by 1967.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Here is a July 1967 ad from the Austin Journal:
http://tinyurl.com/3p2lqs

webfiles
webfiles on September 1, 2007 at 3:57 pm

I attended the Rockne only once when visiting Chicago in 1956. The movie was Elvis’ first: Love Me Tender. My cousin and I walked about 5 blocks from Lombard Ave. As a teenager from northern Wisconsin, I thought the theater was overwhelming. I was also quite impressed with the balcony. Very enjoyable to see the photo of the Rockne and read all the comments.

Melodance
Melodance on August 30, 2007 at 2:41 pm

We would go to the Rockne every now and then as we mostly attended the Tiffin on North Avenue.

One movie in particular that I vividly recall seeing there was Disney’s Babes in Toyland, which shows how long ago this was.

I mostly recall it being a little more upscale than the Tiffin. (I certainly don’t recall the coppola shown in the picture above.)

johnsonent
johnsonent on January 24, 2007 at 4:27 am

Not only did the Rockne show good movies it was also a clean theater. Don’t ever recall the place looking shaby or dirty at all. Went to the Rockne from the mid 50’s to early seventies. Lived about six blocks away. I do recall though maybe in the late 50’s or early sixtes they re-did their lobby.

GFeret
GFeret on January 23, 2007 at 11:25 am

The ROCKNE to me had a more respectable reputation than other neighborhood theatres it seems; saw SOUND OF MUSIC there first, later THE GRADUATE. I say this knowing it went the adult route later on. It was the theatre one took the Division St bus to the end-of-the-line to.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 10, 2006 at 1:42 pm

Yep. That is the rotunda at right. Last time I was by here the ROCKNE vertical sign was still up. But that was many years ago. At some point the exterior of the building was totally redone. I have always assumed that took place at the point they adopted the ROCKNE name.

johnsonent
johnsonent on November 10, 2006 at 5:55 am

You can see a picture of what it looked like in 2000 as a Church. Not a very good picture. www.cookcountyassessor.com
Type in the pin#16-05-403-001-0000, or the address which is 5815 W Division.

johnsonent
johnsonent on November 9, 2006 at 10:07 am

I can remember standing in line with my friends holding big bags of greassy popcorn waiting to get in for a Saturday matinaee. Usually acouple of horror movies like I was a Teenage Frankestein or Terror from the year 5000.I’m still a big fan of old B horror movies. The ushers wore uniforms. I really wanted that job! The show would be packed. I believe the managers first name was Jim. I remember going to see A man Called Horse and Little Big Man. These were the two movies they played last before going Adult. The whole neighborhood turned out to try and show them that they could still make money from these kind of movies. At least this is the way I remember it.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 13, 2006 at 6:48 am

No problem. Good luck with your project. It sounds like a very nice gift.

las1301
las1301 on June 12, 2006 at 5:17 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!