North Center Theatre

4031 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60618

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rivest266 on November 11, 2016 at 12:26 am

April 16th, 1949 grand reopening ad in the photo section.

DavidZornig on May 6, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Circa 1930’s post card added courtesy of Jared Kachelmeyer.

rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

February 3rd, 1926 grand opening ad has been posted here.

clarkw on March 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm

The organ itself went to Jim Walgreen and was broken up for parts when he got rid of everything. It was in BAD shape by that point, which is really a shame.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 10, 2012 at 7:07 am

Open 1925-1963

In 1925 a Kimball Theater Pipe Organ 3/21 Manuals/Rank (Keyboard/Sets of Pipes) was shipped to this theater.

William Wallace Kimball founded the W.W. Kimball and Company in Chicago in 1857. At certain times in the 19th and 20th centuries it was the largest piano and organ manufactuer. Kimball began assembling REED organs in 1877. The factory produced 15,000 organs a year, as the world’s largest organ maker. They produced 403,390 REED organs. The PIPE organ division built 7,326 models. They also went on to make ELECTRONIC/ELECTRIC organs.

From the photos above the console in 2007, was in a residence in Omaha, Nebraska. Anyone know what happened to the pipes?

HughJazz on August 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm

The grocery store at Lincoln & Belle Plaine was called “Red Owl”, and had a red, black and white owl’s cartoon face as its outside logo. On the west side of Lincoln was the “Childrens Bargain Town” toy store.

kencmcintyre on January 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm

This is from Boxoffice magazine in May 1941:

CHICAGO-The Essaness Vogue, which has been recently remodeled, had a gala opening Friday. Another Essaness house, the North Center, which has also been remodeled, will have its official opening Thursday.

GrandMogul on February 9, 2007 at 7:53 am

CHICAGO TRIBUNE ad for Wednesday, February 3, 1926, announced that the North Center theatgre, Lincoln & Robey (now Damen) avenue, at Irving Park Road, opened on that date.

Broan on April 26, 2006 at 6:55 am

The rendering I mentioned in December looks entirely different from what was built.

rso1000 on January 10, 2006 at 6:49 pm

Demolition was around 1966 – 67.

Although the theatre had been long closed, just prior to demolition, it was reopened for one day and a final farewell Vaudeville program was presented on a Saturday night. Fortunately my parents took me there to see that show.

While the theatre was dirty, musty and obviously not used for several years, my fond remembrance was finally seeing the towering NORTH CENTER sign lit for my first and last time.

Broan on December 6, 2005 at 2:04 pm

I’d be curious to compare it to the rendering I have to see how drastic the change was, if there was any semblance between the two. It seemed like there was an unusual level of fanfare for the opening of a 1300 seat theater.

richardg on December 6, 2005 at 1:57 pm

I don’t think it was as long as the Uptown’s lobby but it was long. I have both interior and exterior photos of the North Center. It’s seating capacity was certainly scaled down from the proposed 3000 seat venue. The theatre though not plain was no match for many of Chicago’s other theatres.

Broan on December 6, 2005 at 9:48 am

I should add that that article appeared in the November 23, 1923 Chicago Tribune and stated it would be a 3000 seat venue, and the North Center did not open until February 3, 1926, so it’s quite possible plans changed. I could determine this with more certainty if I saw a photo. A later article mentions that Karzas did, in fact, hold the leases to the Woodlawn, North Center, and the State in Hammond, Indiana. A shift from Ascher to Karzas could easily have brought the delay in building and change in architects.

Broan on December 6, 2005 at 9:36 am

When the building was first announced, architects were named as Oman & Lillenthal with JEO Pridmore associated. It was to be operated by Ascher Brothers. It was stated that it would have the longest lobby in the city, stretching 140 feet from Lincoln to Damen (then Robey)

richardg on June 2, 2005 at 6:00 pm

Judging from the fact Andrew Karzas wrote a paragraph of information about the North Center theatre in its opening day program, an educated conclusion would be that he and borther, William Karzas owned the theatre. In just a few months after they opened their newest theatre, the North Center, they would open their newest and Chicago’s most elaborate ballroom — the Aragon. Approximately two years earlier they had opened Chicago’s Trianon Ballroom.

richardg on June 1, 2005 at 7:02 pm

One of my birthday presents was a North Center theatre information package from the T.H.S. (Theatre Historical Society of America). Although the package doesn’t contain a lot of information, it does reveal the architect was Walter W. Ahlschlager. He designed some outstanding buildings in many major U. S. cities. His theatres can’t be over shadowed by anyone, even those built by Rapp and Rapp. Ahlschlager designed New York’s Roxy, Beacon and many others including my neighborhood theatre, the North Center. An excellent exterior photo of the theatre was also included in the info package.

richardg on January 20, 2004 at 7:14 pm

Yes, the theatre was where the Osco Drug now stands, and in fact, Osco wasn’t the initial tennent of the building. It was originally occupied by a super market — can’t remember its name. The supermarket folded after a year or two and the building stood empty for maybe a year or so. I remember thinking what a waste to tear down this theatre complex and replace it with an unrentable store. The Jewel/Osco store was, however a sucess from its first day.

paytonc on January 13, 2004 at 1:24 am

If Richard G. is correct, then the theater stands where the Osco Drug now does, at the corner with Belle Plaine. The bowling alley has since been replaced with a residential building with a Starbucks at the corner.

richardg on December 14, 2003 at 4:36 pm

The North Center was not by any means an ornate B&K movie palace but it was a comfortable theatre and part of a small chain. It seated between 1200 & 1400 people.
The balcony was small in that it had no depth — it was more like continuous opera boxes or a loge rather than a true balcony. The foyer was huge; you entered on Lincoln Ave. but could exit on Damen Ave. if desired. The theatre’s ceiling contained a rather large oval which was covered in a brown fabric. In addition to four vertical aisles there was a wide horizontal aisle right in the middle of the seating. I’m not sure what purpose it served but if you had long legs it was the place to sit. The theatre had an organ which always played before the matinees. The organ music was shear agony for most of the kids who fantasized about shooting the organist and putting on some Jerry Lee Lewis music. The theatre complex contained apartments and some retail stores including a small department store called Hurst. The bowling alley and pool hall were down the block. The pool hall was in fact where the Cruise/Newman movie “the Hustler” was filmed. The theatre complex was torn down before 1970 and probably closer to 1965. My parents won a trip to Florida during one of the theatre’s promotions in the 1950’s