Symphony Theater

4937 W. Chicago Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60651

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Broan on January 17, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Here, Here and Here are THSA photos of the Symphony.

warnergrand on January 24, 2013 at 9:55 am

Any interior photos of this place?

3Gary3 on May 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm

billDeMaria I’d Love to see interior photos of the Symphony. If possible can you please email them to me or


LouisRugani on January 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm

When the city’s drive on license violators hit theaters last week, seven West Side movie houses made quick amends in their admission prices. In view of speedy corrections of the violations, Judge Cecil Smith discharged the cases.
Theaters affected and their maximum prices were: Tiffin, 4045 North, 40 cents; West End, 121 N. Cicero, 40 cents; Byrd, 4730 Madison, 40 cents; Symphony, 4921 Chicago, 40 cents; Crawford, 19 S. Crawford, 40 cents; K and C, 306 S, Cicero, 25 cents; and the Plaisance, 466 N. Parkside, 40 cents.

LouisRugani on April 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm

(The Austin Reporter, August 4, 1965)
Theater Owner Ousts Reporter

“What are you doing? Get out of my building!” Dave Pielet, owner of the dilapidated Symphony theater, screamed hysterically at a Community Publications reporter Monday.
The reporter was standing in the middle of the public sidewalk surveying the debris-filled interior of the 4935 Chicago ave. theater.
“If you don’t,” he shrilled, “I’ll slap your face!"
With that, he jumped into his big car, gunned the motor angrily and sped away.
Earlier in the course of this sidewalk interview, third of a series of lunch hour encounters with the theater owner, Pielet suggested an alternate campaign for this newspaper in lieu of concentrating on the eyesore theater.
"If you want to do something,” he suggested in a voice loud enough to cause passersby to turn and stare, “why don’t you take care of all these taverns. There’s one, and there’s one and there’s one. I don’t like them in my neighborhood,” he concluded.
Pielet, who gained a month’s stay of execution on an order to demolish the theater on the basis of a building permit calling for $20,000 in repairs, refused to comment on the type of business the theater will be used for. Manager of one of the stores housed in the Symphony theater building said he didn’t know if there was a prospective tenant. “He keeps saying he isn’t ready for a tenant,” commented the store manager, “so I guess all we can do is wait and see.” The case is scheduled for its next hearing before Judge Richard Napolitano on Aug. 17.

LouisRugani on April 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

(The Garfieldian, April 7, 1965)
Car Smashed by Bricks From Decaying Theater
Falling bricks from the decaying Symphony theater, 4937 W. Chicago, broke the windshield of a car parked in an adjoining lot Saturday.
Neighbors said the bricks came within five feet of the sidewalk, on which there was a steady flow of Saturday shoppers. Witnesses also said it was fortunate that children who frequently play in the parking lot were not present when the bricks plunged to the ground. “This is not the first time this has happened,” said Robert Rowley, a salesman for Harlo Electric Co., 4941 Chicago, car owner, “but when it does I’m always glad the damage is caused to a parked car instead of some child playing in the lot or a passer-by on the sidewalk."
The bricks fell from the west side of the theater, a structure that has not been used for 15 years which the city is currently suing to have torn down on the grounds that it is 56 per cent depreciated.
Rowley said that he and other employes of Harlo who park in the lot have had their cars nicked frequently by falling pieces of brick and mortar from the crumbling wall of the 40-year-old abandoned theater. "It seems to happen mostly during temperature changes from hot to cold or vice versa,” he said. “The things just start flaking off that building, nicking the paint on our cars. It’s very annoying because we can’t use but half of our parking lot. We try to park at the side of our own building instead of by the Symphony. Wish I had on Saturday."
The Symphony, which has been in and out of court since 1961, is currently set for its next hearing on April 20 before Judge Richard Napolitano, when the city hopes to enter its petition for demolition of the structure. Members of the AGO housing committee and affiliated Central Austin organization are compiling all available records from police, fire and health departments for presentation in
court at the next hearing. The committee, headed by the Rev. Joseph Ognibene, of Our Lady Help of Christians parish, has invited Symphony owner Dave Pielet to attend its next meeting on the theater set for tomorrow (Thursday) at 8 p.m. in the Austin YMCA, 501 N.

LouisRugani on April 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

(Suburbanite Economist, April 7, 1965)
Welcome to the Fight

We are glad to see a group of North Austin citizens interesting themselves in the empty, eyesore Symphony theater building that has disgraced the appearance of Chicago ave. for too many years.
Over the years this newspaper, virtually alone, has kept tabs on this building, calling attention to whatever problems existed and urging the city to enforce the building code to have them corrected, and encouraging various plans announced to put the building to a constructive use that would benefit both the owner and the community.
Now city inspectors have reported that the building is more than 50 per cent deteriorated, which means the court could order it demolished.
The Symphony’s owner has taken exception to the campaign started by the Austin News. He contends that his structure represents a sizable investment, is not a neighborhood nuisance and that he is endeavoring to rent it.
The citizens group is compiling evidence on the nuisance charge. We submit that because its appearance makes it stand out like a sore thumb, a derelict theater is of more community concern than the ordinary store or office building. Theater architecture is an advantage to the theater owner when business is good, but it is also an extra burden he must bear when times are bad. Fifteen years appear to be ample time for the owner to do something with the building.
The Symphony is not the only theater building in this condition on the West-Northwest Side or in the city at large crying for attention. Wherever they exist, these buildings cast a pall on the area surrounding them.

LouisRugani on October 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm

(Austin News, April 14, 1965)
Testimony on one of three recent police cases involving the gutted Symphony theater, 4937 Chicago, will be introduced at Tuesday’s court hearing by Commander John Neurauter of the Austin station.
The case involves a young teenage girl, reportedly forced inside the abandoned theater by two 12-year-old boys and a 13-year-old who attempted to attack her before she was able to flee.
Records of three recent fires in the building will also be submitted to the court. Chief Franda Murphy of the fire prevention bureau has evidence he also promised that he would present at the hearing set for 2 p.m. Tuesday in room 1108 to the hearing and the inspector in court to testify as to his findings.
A health department inspector has also been asked to report on his findings regarding the health hazards caused by rats and pigeons in and around the theater before Judge Richard Napolitano.
An ACO delegation will attend the hearing with some members expected to testify on their own observations of conditions both outside and inside the theater, vacant for nearly 5 years, was done by members of the Austin Community organization housing committee who volunteered to comb the files entry, technically should have no effect on the city’s efforts to obtain a demolition decree from the court.
“In 1963, the state legislature, of which Judge Napolitano was a member at that time, passed an amendment which would allow granting of a demolition order against a building, even when it was boarded up,” pointed out Timothy O'Hara, acting head of the building code enforcement division of the corporation counsel’s office.
Prior to passage of the 1963 amendment, owner of a vacant and dilapidated building could avoid a demolition order simply by securing the building against entry. This was what Pielet did during the 1962 court case on the Symphony. He told an ACO committee last Thursday that he had signed contracts to install an overhanging door at the alley side of the theater as well as steel plates over the broken windows at the front.
Several neighbors, accompanied by Jim Feeley of the ACO, were easily able to obtain entry to the theater recently when during an inspection of the theater they ran across the janitor chasing four youths from the premises.
“The door was open so we went inside,” Feeley explained. Mrs. Patricia O'Leary, 5037 Superior, one of those accompanying Feeley that day, said she was repulsed by all the dead pigeons lying
around on the floor inside the building.
“There were bricks, bottles and debris all over the inside,” she said, “but the pigeons were the worst. Right in the front by the entrance there’s a ceiling chandelier hanging about two inches off the ground. I’m told the children swing back and forth on it when they get inside."
Getting inside isn’t too difficult, the ACO members discovered again as they emerged from the theater.
"A group of three or four boys came over to us,” she added, “and asked us if we were trying to get inside. They offered to show us how. That is being a little too helpful!”

kencmcintyre on December 5, 2008 at 4:46 pm

There was a story in the Austin (IL) News on 3/3/65 about the impending demolition of the Symphony:

kencmcintyre on January 18, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Demolition began on 12/1/65:

Workmen Start Razing Old Symphony Theater

An Austin News campaign to get an Austin eyesore cleaned up or demolished reached its climax this week as workmen started destruction of the Symphony theater at 4935 Chicago. Monday unseen workmen sent chunks of plaster and metal reverberating to the concrete floor as they enlarged the gaping hole in the roof started last week. The roof should be completely removed by the end of this week, according to Scott Moore, foreman of the demolition crew. Then the wall on the east side of the brick structure will be leveled.

Whether razing of the theater will bring an end to the court litigation that has gone on for the past three years remained uncertain. When the demolition crews arrived Dave Pielet, building owner, said he had an injunction to stop the work. Later, however, he said he would sue the city for damages. As of Monday, city officials had not heard of any new court action initiated by Pielet.

The theater, vacant since the early 1950s, had long been a source of complaints to the Austin News’ Willing Willie column both as to its condition and as a hangout for young hoodlums. At one time Austin district police commander John Neurauter ordered special inspection of the premises at regular intervals to keep undesirables from gathering there. Last April 3 a number of bricks from a side wall fell from the building and damaged a car parked below.

Early in 1962 the city filed suit against the Symphony as a dangerous building open to vagrants. When Pielet agreed to board up the building and remove an overhanging fire escape the case was dismissed. An inspection conducted by city building inspectors in the fall of 1964, however, showed that the building, previously listed as only 8 per cent depreciated, was now 56 per cent depreciated. They found the inside had been gutted and entry was available to vandals through a large broken window and a door.

As a result of this inspection a suit for demolition was filed last March. A demolition order was issued by Judge Richard Napolitano April 20 in Housing court. However, after Pielet appealed that he intended to fix up the building, Judge Napolitano agreed to lift the order if such action was taken.

On Nov. 10 of last monthâ€"six months after the demolition order had first been issuedâ€"-Napolitano ruled that work done by Pielet had amounted to “just about nothing” and permitted the demolition decree to stand. As the city had already taken bids for the demolition work last summer all it had to do after the Nov. 10 ruling was tell the low bidder to start work.

kencmcintyre on December 16, 2006 at 1:33 pm

This is from the 3/17/65 edition of the Suburbanite Economist:

Theater Demolition Case Continued to April 20

The city’s suit seeking repair or demolition of the Symphony theater was continued yesterday in Housing court by Judge Richard Napolitano until April 20. Immediate action was ordered, however, to board up all openings in the building to eliminate pigeons and rodents that have been frequenting the premises. Both Timothy O'Hara, head of the city’s demolition section and Sol M. Glick, assistant corporation counsel, appeared in court to press the city’s case.

The continuance was granted when the owner’s attorney appealed that he was not ready for trial. Judge Napolitano indicated he would decide the case April 20. Several persons from the Austin Community organization were present at the hearing. Neighbors to the eyesore Symphony theater building, 4937 Chicago, are attempting to arrange a private meeting with the owner, Dave Pielet, to discuss his plans for the structure, vacant since 1951.

Chester Slarzynski, 4905 Superior, one of the group who attended yesterday’s court hearing on the building, said he hoped to contact Pielet, a former scrap metal dealer, in the near future to arrange the meeting. The building, found to be 56 per cent depreciated by the city building department, is completely gutted on the inside. Windows are broken throughout and the front defaced by old posters and scrawling. Its marquee was removed about 18 months ago after nearby businessmen pushed for its removal.

billDeMaria on February 19, 2006 at 12:57 pm

I remember the police coming into the Symphony and dragging me out of
there on a couple of occasions. It was like a magnet to me though,
I kept going back after it shut down. I do know for a fact that it
closed in the Fall of the early fifties, probably fifty one. They
always had a hard time heating the place in the winter time, fuel being expensive and the interior was cavernous. I always kept my
coat on in the winter or left it draped over my legs for warmth.
I have a paper clipping which shows a picture of the Symphonies'
marquee being torn down, this was in the mid fifties and the article
goes on to state that although the show closed years ago the marquee
still remained and was a hazard to neighborhood pedestrians and businesses who felt it might fall and cause damage and injuries. The
byline for the story and photo was “Unfinished Symphony”..

JAY12 on February 19, 2006 at 8:12 am

Bryan, i guess i was wrong about seeing It’s a Mad Mad World there in 1963 maybe it was at the Rockney theater???

JAY12 on February 19, 2006 at 4:07 am

I question the year of closing-demolition, it seems to me I went to the Symphony only one time to see IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD when it first came out around 1963 or 64. Also rem. after the demo. The lot sat empty for several yrs. with the lobby floor tile still visable.
The Austin area with elm tree lined streets was a nice place to live in the 50s That’s before it had turned into what it is today, a crime & drug ridden area!!

argall on January 26, 2006 at 1:12 pm

My Dad used to shoot 8MM movies of neighborhood fires. I believe I have somewhere about a 5 second color clip of the Symphony with the Marquee lit up and operating. I will have to look for that and see if I can transfer it to video.

If anyone is willing to share their photos of The Symphony, via EMail, I would GREATLY appreciate it!

Loren Argall
Huntley, Illinois

tomdelay on January 25, 2006 at 5:05 pm

I have found out that the Symphony Theatre Kimball pipe organ was removed in the 1950s and essentially broken up for parts. For several years the console sat backstage at the Hinsdale Theatre with an electronic organ built into the Kimball console’s shell.

From the information I got tonight, the console is possibly/probably in storage in Indiana Harbor.

tomdelay on January 25, 2006 at 10:26 am

Yes, I have seen that photo of the facade.

I’ll send some e-mails out to some folks who might know what became of the organ. Even though the pipework complement was not huge, Kimball 4 manual consoles like that do not grow on trees. In fact out of all the Kimball theatre organs built, they only produced (6) “horseshoe” 4 manual consoles and (1) 5 manual (for the NYC Roxy Theatre.)

billDeMaria on January 25, 2006 at 10:03 am


I have a picture of the stage, as shot from the balcony and the
organ is to the left of the stage. It looks like it was white or
cream colored, and as you stated, not too large. I remember it as
being to the right of the screen, back in the late forties and early
Also in my posession are some flyers with coming attractions
which state ,“Get the habit, five act Vaudeville and picture program
every Sunday at the Symphony"
The Marquee was enormous, with Symphony spelled out vertically
in huge block letters, which could be seen from central avenue.

tomdelay on January 24, 2006 at 6:40 pm

As I recall, the Symphony Theatre had the smallest 4 manual W.W. Kimball pipe organ built. It was 10 ranks. The console is pictured in Vol. I of the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ by the late David L. Junchen.

billDeMaria on January 24, 2006 at 5:41 pm

I spent many a happy hour at the Symphony as a small boy. I believe
it closed in October of 1951. After it shut down my friends and I
used to sneak in through a boarded up section off the alleyway. We
would wander through the aisles and up in the balcony . The projectors were still in the projection room but they were all gutted
it was like paying respects to a deceased relative for us to be there.
I have three photos of the Symphony and one of the Iris theater which
was about a mile West on Chicago Avenue.
Bill DeMar

argall on October 9, 2003 at 10:39 am

My Dad watched it being built, I watched it being demolished. My Dad once played the organ in this theater. I would love to see a picture of this theater.