White Front Theatre

1257 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60622

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

White Front Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The original address 909 N. Milwaukee Avenue has now been renumbered. The White Front Theatre was opened by Carl Laemmle on February 24, 1906.

This early nickelodeon was the stepping stone to success for Carl Laemmle, who went on to form Universal Pictures in 1912. The White Front Theatre was closed in 1911, and converted to retail use as a five & dime store.

The building was last used as a Kiss & Tell lingerie store.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Trolleyguy on February 26, 2012 at 9:54 am

My guess as to location would be the building next door at 1253, the Foot Locker store. The style of building and size conforms more closely to the era of this theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 27, 2012 at 5:33 am

The Moving Picture World of July 15, 1916, had an article about Carl Laemmle’s first venture into the movie business (Google Books scan here.) There’s a 1906 photo of the White Front Theatre, but it is cropped too close to reveal whether or not it was in the building that now houses the Foot Locker store.

The building did have narrow windows on the upper floor, like the windows in the Foot Locker building, but the article says that the White Front property had a fifty foot frontage, while the Foot Locker building appears to be only half that width. If the theater was at what is now 1257 N. Milwaukee, it’s likely that it has been demolished, as the building now on the site has much wider windows on the second floor. At the very least, the entire facade was replaced.

The MPW article says that Laemmle gave up the theater when his original five-year lease ran out, at that in 1916 the building housed a five-and-ten-cent store.

rickofricks1979 on March 30, 2012 at 7:10 am

After extensive research on this area, my former Chicagoland area neighborhood, the Foot Locker building is the location Carl Laemmle opened his White Front Theatre. The building once had a matching side to it. The larger building was never there. It was built years after the other side had burned from an interview I conducted with two surviving women of that day. One was Lydia Pucinski, a popular radio personality in her own right. I found this building and informed Carl Laemmle Junior about it soon before we met in 1979, when the structure was not a Foot Locker, but the longtime business known as Byster Brothers Clothing store. After viewing the photo of the nickelodeon, I recall seeing these triangular openings above the doorway. There is no question that this is the location. I lived in Chicago most of my life and interviewed neighbors (and one of the Byster sons and an employee who knew stories his father told him about the theatre), now long gone, who were young people at the time Laemmle was a part of their community.

Incidentally, it was Carl’s brother Joseph Laemmle, who opened his brother’s nickelodeon for in February 1906. Joseph’s daughter Carla Laemmle (born Rebecca Isabelle Laemmle). Carla’s Uncle Carl moved Joseph and his family to California in 1921. Carla has lived there since. In fact, the family was one of three families to live at Universal City. Carla and I have been good friends for 15 years. She is an amazing individual at the age of 102 (born 1909: just as her Uncle Carl was breaking away from theatre owner and began producing motion pictures forming the IMP company).

Carla Laemmle’s biography was published in February 2009, soon before her 100th birthday. I am her biographer. “Among the Rugged Peaks: An Intimate Biography of Carla Laemmle” is available through Amazon.com and/or Midnight Marquee Press.

Broan on January 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm

There continues to be a lot of confusion over the location of the White Front. All the hard evidence I’ve seen points to the storefront that was most recently Kiss & Tell Lingerie as the location, while anecdotes point to the Foot Locker.

Known facts: -The White Front was at 909 Milwaukee under the pre-1909 numbering system, according to numerous sources -The address 909 Milwaukee translated to 1257 Milwaukee when re-numbered, according to the 1909 renumbering guide (http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.pdf) and the 1914 Sanborn Map covering this area. -This is a photo of the White Front, reprinted in a 1916 Moving Picture World

-A February 6, 1906 article in the Chicago Tribune describes a fire in a three story building at 909 Milwaukee. The White Front opened later that month at 909 Milwaukee. If the fire was in the building now occupied by Foot Locker, it would have been described as a “two story building” -The 1914 Sanborn Map illustrates the Kiss & Tell building as it currently stands, so that building dates at least to 1914 if not earlier. -The 1916 article describes a 5&10 store in the former White Front. 1916 Chicago Tribune advertisements show a O'Connor & Goldberg shoe store in the 1253, Foot Locker building.

I have used photoshop to paste the image of the White Front onto the facades of the existing buildings. The proportions of the photo fit very well into the Kiss & Tell, especially the surrounding architectural details. The photo does not align well with the Foot Locker’s proportions. This comparison is posted here in the photos section.

Finally, Byster’s was not in the Foot Locker, it was one door south. The awning still says Byster’s.

daveandrick on July 15, 2015 at 10:27 am

Forget the photos. I am a Chicagoan and was greeted and given a tour by Mr. Byster himself in 1979. This is the location. There was a fire in the adjoining building soon before Laemmle opened it. Laemmle also wrote in his unpublished 1927 memoir that the building was a “one story” structure. In the adjoining building before KISS & TELL, there were occupants living in the upper quarter before it was torn down. No one was hurt, fortunately. This is where Laemmle opened his White Front Theatre. The photo from Moving Picture World was not the White Front. Facts and no personal attacks. I’ve known the Laemmle and Bergerman family for over 35 years. Thank you for the space.

daveandrick on July 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Perhaps, I did not make it clear enough …. Byster Brothers Men’s and Women’s Apparel was once Carl Laemmle’s White Front Theatre. The building still stands as does the apartment home on Hoyne Avenue that he rented and the apartment house on the South side before the family moved to New York.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater