Clermont Theatre

3228 N. Clark Street,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 27, 2017 at 2:02 am

This weblog post, which features some splendid photos of the terra cotta detail of the Clermont’s facade, says that the facade is to be the only part of the building saved. A seven-story building will replace the theater itself.

The article says that the house opened in 1909 as the Garibaldi Theatre, closed in 1911, and reopened as the Clermont, which it remained until closing in 1945.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on January 26, 2017 at 2:32 pm

The Clermont is currently being demolished. The front facade is still standing but I don’t know if it will survive the wrecker’s ball.

CrustyB on October 19, 2016 at 10:21 am

Khnemu, I was by there recently and it’s still standing. The gargoyles are gone but otherwise it’s intact. I was at an alderman’s meeting and the developers said they considered saving the beautiful building but there was a fire here long ago. It damaged the framework so it’s unfit for building upon. As far as the facade, the language they used was that they hoped to save it but, with century-old construction, who knows.

Khnemu on July 20, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Curbed Chicago reported back in February that The Alley would be demolished, and replaced with a 7 story apartment/retail building, but the facade would be saved and intergrated into the new building. I haven’t been to the area for a few months, does anyone know if The Alley is still standing?

CrustyB on July 18, 2016 at 9:04 am

I’ve heard that Edgar Bergen (Charlie McCarthy’s dummy ;) ) was a projectionist here during the vaudeville era. Haven’t seen an independent confirmation of that anywhere, though.

Broan on January 18, 2016 at 7:33 am

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

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 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.

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 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm

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

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 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.

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):

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 9, 2012 at 1:57 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.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

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.

Ramova7719 on October 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

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!

DavidZornig on March 7, 2009 at 10:51 pm

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.

Broan on March 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Don’t believe those are original.

kencmcintyre on March 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm

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

DavidZornig on November 21, 2008 at 11:52 am

There was also some type of theatre building just a bit further West on Belmont on the North Side of the street. Not as far West at Clarke’s Diner.
It was torn down about 3 years ago, after standing vacant for a while. Haven’t figured out what it was called yet.

DavidZornig on November 21, 2008 at 11:48 am

Here’s an answer that’s a little late. Yes, that location was the Guitar Center before The Alley.
The Alley was previously accessed off of what else, the alley on Belmont. West of the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.
Which I’m told you should never park in, even when you are GOING to Dunkin Donuts.
A friend of mine bought his used 12 string bass at that Guitar Center.
I think it was bi-level then, not sure about now.

ctd on April 16, 2007 at 5:39 am

Wow, thanks for the pics, BWChicago. Wasn’t that building the location of Guitar Center in the 80s?