Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Nortown Theater

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Built by Publix-Balaban & Katz. Opened on April 4th, 1931 with Nancy Carroll in “Stolen Heaven” and Laurel & Hardy in “Chickens Come Home”. The Nortown Theater was an Atmospheric style theater which was known for it striking seaside theme sea horse, mermaid, and zodiac motifs. It was designed by architect James E.O. Pridmore. The Nortown Theater was located in the West Ridge neighborhood on N. Western Avenue near W. Rosemont Avenue. It featured a 3/15 Wurlitzer theater organ which was opened by organist Eddie House ‘Chicago’s Premier Singing Organist’.

The theater closed in 1990 after an unsuccessful triplexing in 1984 and was afterward used as a community center and still later, as a church.

Unfortunately, the Nortown Theater was demolished in June-August 2007. A great deal of the theater’s decorative terra-cotta and plaster was salvaged before the building was torn down. Condominiums and two small cinemas (which will cater to Pakistani and Indian audiences), along with retail space, were planned to replace the Nortown Theater. However these fell through and in January 2016 it was announced a Wendy’s restaurant would be built on the site.

Contributed by Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 232 comments)

Batwoman
Batwoman on July 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Yes, very sad to see it go. :(

At least there’s hope for other aging theater palaces. The Genesee theater was fully restored several years ago and is absolutely beautiful! I saw a concert there last year and because I had volunteered to run the merch tables (got me in for free), I was in the lobby during the opening act. I was talking to the workers and a guy that works there knew of Nortown. I forget if he said he worked there too, but he was telling me how they fought to save the Genesee from the wrecking ball and literally managed it as the wrecking ball was outside, waiting to take a swing the next morning.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on March 10, 2014 at 12:22 am

Worked there eight years. Just got a large collection of photos from one of the former managers. Miss that place madly. It was very cool and when I worked there in the 70[s and early 80’s it was in pretty good shape.

Shelly77
Shelly77 on June 24, 2014 at 2:58 am

Going there as a youngster in the early 1950’s I remember the ceiling with twinkling stars, my first screening of Wizard of Oz, “Charge at Feather River” in 3D, George selling KarmelKorn in the store next door.

Batwoman
Batwoman on June 24, 2014 at 6:05 am

Jayne, would you mind scanning and uploading the pictures? I would love to see them.

SarahFreeh212
SarahFreeh212 on October 30, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I wish I could have seen this place when it was still operational.. I was privileged to be able to go in 2007 to assist in some of the salvaging. We found so many remarkable things in there. It was pretty cool to find the old candy wrappers, ticket stubs, matchbooks underneath the seats as they were coming out. It was beautiful inside even half torn down.

RickB
RickB on January 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Ultimately, the occupant of the Nortown site will be…a Wendy’s.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Auditorium photo in below link.

http://explore.chicagocollections.org/image/thsa/92/hm5303m/

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

1934 photo added courtesy of the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society Facebook page.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on September 25, 2017 at 5:03 am

Mid `80s night photo added courtesy of Michael Murphyā€ˇ.

whtesoxfan56
whtesoxfan56 on September 30, 2017 at 5:54 am

To SarahFreeh212, I only saw one movie here ever. I think it was in the late 80s/early 90s, when I recall seeing a kiddie movie of some sort that was playing here. Wish I could’ve visited this theater more than once, since it was an amazing theater. It’s a major shame it wasn’t saved from the wrecking ball. :(

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