Lincoln-Belmont Theatre

3162 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Lincoln-Belmont Theatre building in the background circa 1959. Photo courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

Before the nearly 3,300-seat Belmont Theatre opened in 1925, the Lincoln Theatre was the largest and most popular of the Lincoln-Belmont neighborhood’s entertainment venues.

It was built in 1912, and designed by local architect Robert C. Berlin, seating 1,850, at the time one of the largest theatres on Chicago’s North Side. The Lincoln Theatre was built for W. A. Wieboldt, founder of the department store chain bearing his name that were once scattered all over Chicago, and cost around $300,000 to construct.

While the exterior was a mixture of Neo-Classical and Renaissance styles, the interior was originally described as “Persian” and “Oriental” in design.

The Lincoln Theatre was one of the earliest larger-sized theaters in Chicago to be air-conditioned, and was noted for its excellent acoustics, then-cutting-edge technology, and stylish decor.

For most of the 1910’s and 1920’s, the Lincoln-Hippodrome Theatre was part of the Orpheum Circuit, and primarily was a vaudeville house (though from its earliest days screened movies as well). It was still operated by the Orpheum Circuit in 1926. It wasn’t until later in the 1920’s and 1930’s that the Lincoln Theatre turned to movies exclusively.

In 1930, when Ashland Avenue was widened, the theatre lost a small portion of its auditorium, reducing seating by about 300.

The Lincoln Theatre, also known as the Lincoln-Belmont Theatre, remained in operation until about 1950. In 1952, the theatre was gutted and transformed into a retail store.

Like its neighbor, the Belmont Theatre, the actual theatre portion of the Lincoln Theatre has been demolished, replaced by condominiums in 2000, but, also like the Belmont Theatre, portions of the old theatre have been incorporated into the new condominium building.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Broan on February 27, 2005 at 10:53 am

Correct address is 3162 N Lincoln.
Jazz Age Chicago also shows this as having once been named the Lincoln Hippodrome; however this entry shows what was apparently the post-widening seating of 1530, their entry under Lincoln-Belmont shows the Belmont’s address and their early theatres entry shows it as “Lincoln/Lincoln-Belmont”, so make what you will of that.

Broan on November 27, 2006 at 12:18 pm

It actually closed around 1950. In 1952 it was gutted and converted to a May Sons Women’s Apparel store.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 27, 2006 at 4:13 pm

Was it totally gutted in 1952? I thought I heard some guys talking about this building in the 90’s as if some of the theatre existed above the whatever store was there at that point, like the Varsity in Evanston.

Broan on November 27, 2006 at 4:23 pm

The article I read noted that “only the outer walls and supporting columns were left standing” but also that “a second ceiling topping the store’s main and mezzanine floors was suspended by steel hangers from the theater’s old ceiling, leaving a 40 foot empty space between the two ceilings”. So probably yes, the original ceiling likely remained and I imagine that the mezzanine level of the store was the old upper lobby. I know that large amounts of the old Belmont theater were discovered intact behind the bowling renovation when that was demolished in the 90s, too.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 27, 2006 at 5:19 pm

Yes, much remained of the Belmont lobby and auditorium. I am guessing the non-public areas as well. It had been chopped up for various uses over the years of course. The Belmont facade looks good, but it is a shame they couldn’t have reused some of the interior.

Broan on December 3, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Here are photos of this theater.

Bing00 on May 23, 2007 at 7:21 pm

You can see the gargoyles that held up the marquee on the Lincoln Ave side.

DavidZornig on September 6, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I drove by the Lincoln-Belmont Theatre building today. On the Ashland Ave. side there is scaffolding spanning most of the elevation. Must be maintainence or brick work or something. The balconies are unique on the Ashland Ave. elevation, as they are actually recessed into the building. In between columns so they do not hang over the sidewalk. They hang over their own property. Essentially protected from downward elements. This also could have once saved money for developers. As the city’s “air rights” over the sidewalk may have been averted.

The Lincoln Ave. elevation has long had a “Lincoln Theatre Lofts” for sale or rent sign attached to it. There was also a Walgreen’s tucked inside on the Lincoln Ave. side, in late 1989.

For the record, and unrelated to Lincoln Theatre, the City of Chicago has had a “Critical Inspection” mandate since about the year 2000. When terra cotta started falling off of a major building downtown, and they apparently had to chase down the owners.

Essentially this then meant any building over aprox. 80 feet, must undergo a costly, independent critical inspection of/on it’s facade. The cost of this inspection & the firms that do it, are on the backs of any given condo associations for the residential ones. Potentially financially crippling to some smaller buildings with fewer units, but yet tall enough to qualify.
Part of this inspection apparently includes randomly drilling into brickwork. One would think the inspection itself would undermine structural integrity. But then again how else is it gonna get done.
I’m sure the city is just being thorough.

I always wondered why the Lincoln-Belmont Theatre was called that, and not the Lincoln-Ashland Theatre.
Cause technically only the North triangular point of the building, faces Belmont. Where as the building is actually ON the other two streets.
With even a small traffic island in between the Northbound point & Belmont, the building is clearly not on Belmont. But Belmont Ave. has the elevated CTA train station, so that could be why.

Broan on December 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

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