Clermont 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 theatre, which opened by February 1914, 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 1980’s and 1990’s (now located in suburban Evanston).

After closing decades ago as a movie house, the Clermont Theatre was converted to retail use. It became home to the Alley alternative shopping center, which closed January 19, 2016.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

CrustyB on November 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

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

AndrewBarrett on September 26, 2014 at 8:24 pm

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):

Broan on December 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

The name of this theater was the Clermont, not Claremont. The Alley is set to close in coming months.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 12, 2015 at 9:43 am

I wonder how many other businesses might be closing soon. Super high minimum wage, super high property taxes, “cloud” tax, crazy privatized street parking rates. Not to mention the sales tax. I bought a couch in Chicago recently and was shocked at how much the sales tax was. Next time I buy something like that there’s a good chance it will be in the suburbs.

Broan on January 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm

The Alley building may be coming down in the future to make way for new development.

CrustyB on January 17, 2016 at 8:29 am

I see an ad from 1914 refers to this at the Clearmont Theatre. Not sure if this is a misspelling or the actual name of it.

Broan on January 17, 2016 at 9:40 am

The earliest Tribune ad I could find was Feb 18, 1914 which spelled it “Clearmont”. By Feb 25, this was corrected to Clermont, the spelling that remained used through 1927.

GFeret on January 18, 2016 at 7:14 am

the store there closed for good yesterday and had a farewell, although there’s still some activity there today

Broan on January 18, 2016 at 7:33 am

They had a party yesterday, but do not close until tomorrow.

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