Claremont Theatre

3228 N. Clark Street,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Claremont Theatre (The Alley), Chicago, IL

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This Lake View neighborhood movie theater, which opened in the early 1910s, sat around 625, and was located not far from the somewhat larger Buckingham Theatre, which was home to the popular Organic Theatre Company for much of the 80s and 90s (now located in suburban Evanston).

After closing decades ago as a movie house, the Claremont was converted to retail use. Today it is home to the Alley alternative shopping center.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

kencmcintyre on March 8, 2009 at 6:13 am

Here are some additional photos. That’s a griffin on the roof.

Broan on March 8, 2009 at 6:46 am

Don’t believe those are original.

DavidZornig on March 8, 2009 at 6:51 am

I believe you are correct. The Alley actually sells smaller versions of griffins, gargoyles & columns.
They just lucked out that the building’s terra cotta kind of matched their wares.

Ramova7719 on October 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

The interior is very intact. Amazing architecture. I went in there about a month ago and everything was in there execpt for a few things. The store is huge + the theatre! The store not only takes this big theatre up but 5 other buildings!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

This was a Guitar Center for many years, well into the 90’s if not the 2000’s. You walked in on the lobby level, where there didn’t seem to be much visible ornament. Then you went down a short stairway to the main showroom. This was in the former auditorium, and the ceiling and sidewall decoration was still very visible. I don’t remember seeing the arch or organ screens, and as I recall the management offices were in that part of the building.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Open till 1945.

A Robert-Morton Theater Pipe Organ, 2 Manual/3 Rank (Keyboarb/Sets of Pipes) Style 49, was shipped to the theater in 1924. Does anyone know what happened to the organ?

Robert Morton Organ Company was located in Van Nuys, California. “Robert Morton” wasn’t a person, rather the first names of a major stockholder’s sons. It was the number two volume producer of theater pipe organs, building approximately half as many as the industry leader WurliTzer.

CrustyB on November 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I heard from a number of sources that Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy performed her during the vaudeville era.

AndrewBarrett on September 27, 2014 at 4:24 am

I’d also like to know what happened to the Robert-Morton model 49 organ that Mr. Jensen describes having been shipped to this theatre. There are still a few of this model existing today, but I don’t personally know their early histories or provenances.

There are also parts existing in various collections, to model 49s and 39s (a sister model) that have been parted out.

The 49 is a really fun theatre pipe organ model because it is “portable”! (Well, relatively speaking).

The organ typically has three ranks of pipes, tibia, string, and vox humana, and the three ranks are divided amongst two swellboxes, each measuring approximately four feet wide, a little over five feet high, and not quite five feet deep (according to a friend of mine who’s putting the finishing touches on the restoration of a model 49 for a private museum in Northern California).

Besides the pipes, the swellboxes also have a xylophone and a “toy counter” with bass drum / tympani, snare drum, cymbal, and various other goodies and sound effects. The pipes are operated by wind pressure, and the rest of the side cabinet features (percussions, swell shades) by suction, both supplied by a special blower.

Besides the two swellboxes, there are also the tibia bass pipes, going down to the 16' pitch (actual pipe length about 8' long since they are stopped pipes), which are on their own special windchest that goes outside of the swellboxes, due to space considerations. I think some collectors have laid this chest and pipes on its side to save space, but not sure if any were installed this way.

Also, of course, there is the console, which is a tiny two-manual and pedal horseshoe theatre organ console, with stoptabs for the stops and couplers, and “telegraph keys” like an American Fotoplayer for the sound effects.

All 49s, to my knowledge, had a dual roll player built into the console (the same kind found on Fotoplayers) for playing two 88 note piano rolls, so that one could be playing on the organ while the other was rapidly rewinding and being changed by the operator, to suit the changing moods and scenes of the picture being “played”. The console and action of the instrument are electropneumatic, and in addition to the tiny relay built into the console itself, there is another relay for translating the pneumatic signals from the roll reader to electrical signals to actually play the organ.

These are neat machines, and theoretically, they can be moved from place to place without too much of a hassle, and without the need for organ chambers, since the entire instrument (swell cabinets, console, and all) can fit in the orchestra pit, just like a regular Fotoplayer. This is why user “Life’s Too Short” didn’t see any organ grilles when inside the building today… it quite possibly never had organ chambers (although I’ve never been to this particular theatre)… and wouldn’t have needed them for this model!

You can see a great Robert-Morton factory photo of a model 49 here (on the Wicks Organs Facebook page, since Wicks had a close working relationship with Robert-Morton for several years and built many small theatre organs for Morton, although I don’t think Wicks built any of the 39 or 49 organs):

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