Covent Theater

2653 N. Clark Street,
Chicago, IL 60614

Unfavorite 4 people favorited this theater

Showing 18 comments

DavidZornig on May 9, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Apparently the building was sold last December.

rivest266 on November 12, 2016 at 6:37 am

Reopened as Covent by B & K on December 22nd, 1932 as a discount theatre. Small grand opening ad in the photo section. Listings stopped in 1958.

Broan on January 10, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Not first opened, reopened. It first opened in June of that year, as previously mentioned.

In 1928, Balaban & Katz and Jones, Linick, & Shaefer took over the Covent from Lubliner & Trinz (B&K subsidiary) and closed it in order to help the struggling Diversey/Century theater nearby.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm

The Covent Garden first opened on the night of August 5th, 1916. Advertising claimed a construction cost of $500,000, and a seating capacity of 3,000.

Broan on October 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Other articles describe the technical achievements of the Covent Garden. The balcony was noted as requiring no sight-obstructing pillars, making it one of the earlier cantilevered balconies. The capacity was 2,684, making it one of the earliest huge theaters outside the Loop. The stage was designed to hydraulically “split and raise like a jack-knife bridge revealing a broad and deep pool for the water acts. The mechanics of this arrangement, said to be more complete than that of the New York Hippodrome, was the cause of the delayed opening.” The screen drop was painted to imitate a gigantic lady’s handkerchief.

“The stage is of proportions adequate for circus performances, winter carnivals and the largest of grand opera and musical comedy spectacles. A huge water stage, patterned on the lines of the one installed at the New York Hippodrome, is included in the stage equipment for spectacular water effects. A Wurlitzer Hope-Jones orchestral organ, installed at a cost of nearly $75,000, and said to be the largest of its kind in the world with more than 2000 pipes and attachments, will be used exclusively for the interpretation of scores for the musical plays as well as for solo purposes.”

However, the programming was a bust and within two months, after experimenting with combined revues and vaudeville, it was leased to Lubliner & Trinz, becoming the largest film theater in the city despite its tiny, high-perched projection booth.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

These old Chicago hotels have been rapidly going away over the last fifteen years. My guess is the Covent building will soon either be renovated or demolished.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2012 at 5:31 am

The principals of Pereira & Pereira, the firm that did the 1934 remodeling of the Covent Theatre, were William Pereira and Hal Pereira. Percival Pereira was an older architect who was never a member of this firm.

DavidZornig on April 19, 2009 at 8:10 am

CT wonders never cease. I had no idea that this hotel was ever part of a theater. I was at a giant garage sale in this very rear parking lot in the early `80’s.
You entered through the tunnel/Clark St. entrance under the hotel. You could tell by the design that something odd had been done. Dumpsters lined the tunnel.
There was a guard rail across the back of the lot, that people from the alley and the then Post Office next door stepped over to access the sale. The alley behind was almost like a street. And about as wide as the side street were around there.

I also moved someone into that hotel about 5-6 years ago. The interior was like something out of “Paper Moon” or “The Sting”. There was a stairwell office with a glass partition that the on-duty hotel staff sat in/behind.
The tall hallways were old hardwood with carpet runners up the centers. The rooms all had operational transom windows above each door. The rooms however were all of about 8 feet wide by 10 feet deep, if that. An old metal frame bed & waterfall dresser were included. The window overlooked the rear lot.

The Post Office next door has since closed to the public, but is maintained as a sorting station. Next to that going South is a twice built McDonald’s with drive thru. Next to that is a condo building that replaced the Playdium Bowling Alley. Where my grandfather sanded the lanes in the 60's. It was open into the70’s.

kencmcintyre on November 30, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Listed at 2651 N. Clark in the 1953 yellow pages. Phone number was DIvrsy 8-5567.

Broan on June 7, 2008 at 12:35 pm

The 1934 remodeling was by Pereira & Pereira

Broan on September 30, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Photos of this theater are HERE

GrandMogul on March 29, 2007 at 10:36 am

Chicago Tribune, Friday, April 11, 1958, s. 2, p. 2, c. 4:

“… When B & K closed the Covent the other day the chain dropped to 34 theaters from a one time high of 50. There are only 169 flickeries left in town. But, on the other hand, movie biz is suddenly a-fizz … .”

Broan on January 24, 2007 at 4:51 pm

A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map says the Covent had 2684 seats and 3 balconies and a 20,000 gallon water tank (described above)

Broan on March 6, 2006 at 7:55 pm

F.E. Davidson was indeed the architect. The ‘Royal Hipidrome’ name originally proposed alluded to New York’s largest theater, as the Covent was truly massive for its time and especially its location. It must have had an exceedingly small lobby for such a large capacity. Interestingly, the area one block south of the Covent Garden, the southeast corner of Clark and Wrightwood, had an entertainment history: After the Columbian Exposition, the Ferris Wheel was moved there from 1895-1903, operating at a loss (presumably it couldn’t attract nearly enough people to operate at capacity without the surrounding Midway), and in 1904 it was shipped to St. Louis. As for the Covent Garden itself, touted as the $500,000 theater, a Chicago Tribune article chronicles the opening on June 13, 1916, after a cancelled grand opening due to a water tank malfunction on June 8 which caused a full house to be turned away:
“A huge throng of kindly neighborhood folk-between 4,000 and 5,000 perhaps-lent the benision of their prescence last night to the opening performances at Covent Garden, the levithian among uptown playhouses which some hopeful entrepeneur has erected at North Clark street south of Diversey parkway.
They found a theater remarkable for sheer size, considering its uptown location—an incredibly deep affair with one enormous balcony which alone seats more than the ordinary playhouse; a thunderous organ that imitates an orchestra and effects a cheery saving in musicians' wages, and a substage tank into which chorus girls, in perilous deshabille, disappear miraculously, as they do in those New York Hippodrome entertainments which the provincials always see when they visit the more effete metropolis.
This much the kindly neighborhood folk liked. Toward the efforts of the players in "The Land of Evermore,” the initial musical diversion, they exhibited a coolness concerning which silence is the kindest comment. Undoubtedly there will be better shows at Covent Garden later on. Meanwhile, you may find diversion in occupying a loge named for your favorite state, observing the movies of Turkish soldiers at war, and riding in the free bus which the thoughtful management provides for “L” patrons [from Fullerton]."

A special 4-Manual Hope-Jones Wurlitzer, Opus 87 was installed in April, 1916, touted as costing $75,000 and the “World’s Greatest Organ”, it probably was among the greatest organs in Chicago at the time, and if the figures are right, perhaps the greatest Wurlitzer to that time. The water tank barely saw any use, and the theater was inexplicably announced to open for Lubliner & Trinz on August 5, 1916, perhaps their lease didn’t start until then.

Broan on December 6, 2005 at 6:22 pm

It was originally announced as the Royal Hippodrome, built by Henry Meyer with architect F.E. Davidson. It had a rather expensive pipe organ. Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1913, so plans may have changed before it was built.

richardg on February 15, 2004 at 1:42 pm

Yes, the hotel was originally part of the theatre complex. I wish I could add more detailed information about the Covent Garden but I never saw the theatre’s interior. I did as a younster, however, see the exterior. I vividly remember the hotel because I stepped just inside its entrance hoping to get a glance at the then already closed theatre. There was , of course, no glimpse of the theatre from inside the hotel, but when you are eleven or twelve years old and much further away from home than you are permitted to be, rationalization takes a back seat. I’m also nearly sure the theatre had been demolished by 1960 or before. My older brother who’d been to the Covent Garden told me the Century (just one block away) was the nicer of the two theatres.
The thing I remember most about the Covent Garden was its huge vertical signage of
The huge unlite vertical sign with its super-imposed back to back “C’s” but facing opposite directions made the sign look like
from both directions. When the neon was lit, of course the sign would have been easily read. Not being able to figure out how to pronounce “OOVENT”, I finally gave up my pride and asked my older brother how to pronounce “OOVENT”. He told me the first “O” was a “C”. Although I felt dumb and angry at the sign people, I thought it was nice to have an older brother who could solve life’s many complex problems.

sdoerr on November 13, 2003 at 5:18 am

damn parking lots are everywhere now. What year was it razed?

davester47 on October 7, 2003 at 11:01 pm

Actually, The Covent Hotel was part of the building where the theater once stood, and just the theater portion was razed, to be replaced by a parking lot. The Clark Street entrance to the lot was part of the lobby/foyer of the theater, which when you think of it, can be visualized rather easily.