610 W. 63rd Street,
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As the Depression set in, the Southtown Theatre would be the last massive picture palace to be built in Chicago. It was located on W. 63rd Street to the west of S. Wallace Avenue and was built and operated by the Publix-Balaban & Katz theatre chain.
The theatre was designed by architectural firm Rapp & Rapp and opened December 25, 1931 with Will Rogers in “Ambassador Bill” and Gary Cooper in “His Woman”. There were 2,201 seats on the main floor and another 1,000 in the balcony. The most incredible feature was the Flamingo Pool and fountain in the Grand Lobby which had a waterfall and live fish!
The floor plan of the theatre reveals a twin box office set up, a grand lobby, a grand inner lobby (site of the pool), a children’s playing room, a women’s lounge, a men’s lounge, an exit lobby, grand stairs to the lobby leading to a grand foyer, a huge auditorium plus a gently raked balcony.
There were dioramas on the mezzanine foyer which depicted well known Chicago historical events like the Great Fire of 1871. The 4/20 Wurlitzer organ was not original to the Southtown Theatre. It was moved there from the Congress Theatre in 1931 and was used only for a few years and then mostly neglected. It was left to deteriorate and ended up a casualty to a leaking roof.
The Southtown Theatre finally closed in August 1958. It was demolished in 1991 after serving for many years as Carr’s department store and after that, a flea market. An interesting note—two plaster musician busts from the Southtown ended up in the restored Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL.
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