Congress Theater

2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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Congress Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

A mix of architectural styles (including Adam and Italian Baroque), this theater has an elaborate large domed auditorium and is covered with decorations in stone, terra-cotta, and plaster. It remains remarkably intact, down to the original light fixtures and marble wainscoting.

The Congress was built for the Lubliner & Trinz chain. On its opening day, September 5, 1926, there were parades, band concerts, and a bathing beauty contest. The first movie shown at the Congress was “Rolling Home”, a Reginald Denny comedy, as well as five vaudeville acts. In November 1929, the Congress was taken over by the Balaban & Katz chain.

In the 1970’s, the Congress was renamed Teatro Azteca, and screened Spanish-language films. Movies continued to be shown at the Congress through the 1980’s. By the 1990’s, the theater hosted live Latin acts, boxing matches, and an occasional film.

In 2000, the theater was threatened by demolition (for proposed condominiums), but the neighborhood rallied to the its defense. On July 10, 2002, the Congress Theater was declared a Chicago City Landmark.

Today, this splendid survivor of the movie palace era functions as one of Chicago’s grandest concert venues.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 61 comments)

matthew1964
matthew1964 on August 1, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I REMEMBER GOING TO TO CONGRESS JUST 1 TIME IN 1968 MY DAD TOOK ME TO SEE A CHRISTMAS MOVIE ,,I REMEMBER SANTA CLAUSE IN IT ,,THATS IT,, MY DAD USE TO GO SEE THE OLD SPAGHETTE WESTERS THERE ,,SOMETIME AFTER THAT IT TURNED INTO TO THE MEXICO THEATER,,

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

It’s nice to see the building is going to be renovated. Regarding the Portage: I seriously doubt the seats would be kept. Every converted old theater in the city that I am aware of removed them from the main floor.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on December 21, 2012 at 8:23 am

Good article, sums up the whole rotten mess really good, I would'nt want that guy living next door to me!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

New charges. Liquor license in jeopardy:

http://chicagoist.com/2013/01/21/bad_behavior_of_congress_theater_se.php

One of these days Carranza is going to run out of luck.

RickB
RickB on May 25, 2013 at 8:34 pm

City’s Liquor Control Commission moves to revoke liquor license. Carranza says he’ll appeal, but he is also mulling a sale of the theater. DNAInfo story here.

RickB
RickB on January 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm

A sale of the Congress is announced, but there are complications—two other entities say they have right of first refusal. WBEZ story here.

spectrum
spectrum on December 18, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Is the Congress Theatre close?? Their website is down.

LouRugani
LouRugani on January 14, 2015 at 7:01 pm

The Congress Theatre for the last year has been caught up in a legal battle between developer Michael Moyer and event promoters who claimed to have the right of first refusal to purchase the property after its previous owner Eddie Carranza finally gave up his fight with the city and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and decided to sell the historic building. However WBEZ reports that Moyer is set to close on the Congress Theater sometime in the next 60 to 90 days. In a press release, Alderman Moreno revealed that the redevelopment of the theater will also include a small inn and affordable housing units. According to previous estimates, repairs to the Congress Theater could cost up to $20 million and take years to restore. Moyer, who previously redeveloped the downtown Cadillac Palace, will work with Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and W.E. O'Neil Construction on the Congress Theater project. To kick off the beginning of the Congress' new life, Alderman Moreno and New Congress, LLC will hold an open house at the theater on Saturday, January 24 from 1-4pm.

BobbyS
BobbyS on January 16, 2015 at 2:11 am

I wonder how this will affect the Uptown theater project with the Congress, Portage & Patio doing live shows also.

Senorsock
Senorsock on January 28, 2015 at 2:44 am

Some great photos in this story about the Congress renovation. http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/2015/01/26/one-last-look-at-the-congress-theater-before-its-big-makeover.php

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