Criterion Theatre

1222 N. Sedgwick Street,
Chicago, IL 60610

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Criterion Theatre with Sittner's on the left, circa 1912-1913 based on the license plates.

Located in the Near North Side neighborhood of Chicago, on N. Sedgwick Street, between W. Division Street and W. Scott Street, not far from Seward Park. Originally built and opened in 1881 and designed by architect George O. Garnsey with seating for 1,700. It was remodeled and reopened on July 1, 1893 as a vaudeville theatre.

Paul Sittner originally opened his first movie theatre on the third floor of a retail building at 335 W. North Avenue on the Near North Side in 1910. Sittner’s Theatre appears to have moved to a new larger space in the Criterion Theatre on N. Sedgwick Street by 1913 or 1914, and it was first advertised as Sittner’s Criterion Theatre until 1917. The theatre could seat 1,254, but seating was reduced to 1,050 by the time it closed in the early-1930’s. It was demolished in 1934 and the site became a car park. A Jewel Food Store (or more specifically, its parking lot) is on the site of the theatre today.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Broan on October 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Rapp & Rapp may have worked on this theater.

Khnemu on October 20, 2016 at 5:59 pm

From the November 28, 1880 Chicago Tribune: “The well-known architect George O. Garnsey, in connection with Mr. Wallace Hume, theatrical architect, is preparing plans for the new Criterion Theatre, to be erected on Sedgwick street, near Division. The plan embraces a front building 45x76 feet, basement, stores, and two stories of flats. There will be four stores and four basements for renting purposes. Each flat with have six rooms, with closets. The theatre building proper will be 75x135, arranged for parquet, dress-circle, balcony and gallery, seating capacity 1700 people. The stage will be the largest in the city. Particular attention is being paid to give a good amount of exits, and in this instance, will be the best theatre in the city. The building is to be erected of stone and brick, with cut-stone trimmings, at a cost of $50,000. Work is to be commenced at once. The proprietor is Mr. Munger, the well-known elevator and grain man.”

Khnemu on October 21, 2016 at 4:55 am

Also, from the July 2, 1893 Chicago Tribune:

OPENS A NORTH-SIDE PLAYHOUSE James H. Haverly Takes Hold of Old Criterion Theater

Haverly’s Criterion Garden Theater, which is the old Criterion Theater on Sedgwick street, near Division, remodeled and fresh with new paint and furnishings, was formally opened last evening as a vaudeville house. For some time the Criterion has been in disuse except for when it was occupied by German organizations. Col. James H. Haverly, however, saw a field on the North Side for a steadily running vaudeville attraction, and he purchased and remodeled the theater and also added the adjoining property, which has been transformed into a summer and winter garden. Here light refreshments will be obtainable and access will be afforded to the adjoining theater building. Among the specialty performers who were presented last evening were Miss Belle Black, a serio-comic vocalist, Daniel Crimmins and Rose Gore, a farce team, Lew Hawkins, a farceur, the Beech Sisters, John J. Burk, Benedetto, the female impersonator, and others. Two performances will be given daily.

Khnemu on October 21, 2016 at 5:29 am

Another Tribune article, from May 31, 1942, talks in part of an expansion of the Washburne Trade School, later renamed Cooley High School, and the Criterion is mentioned in passing. “One of the parcels acquired by the board of education is the former site of the old Criterion theater, which stood at 1220 Sedgwick street until it was razed in 1934 to become a parking lot…A tunnel under Sedgwick street will link the addition to the present building.”

Khnemu on October 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm

The site of the theater actually became an addition to the high school across the street, which was demolished in the 90s. It only became a parking lot when the Jewel store was built on the site.

DavidZornig on November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am

Photo of the Criterion Theatre with Sittner’s added, circa 1913 based on the license plates. Getty image.

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