2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
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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.
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