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The Auction Block Awaits Historic Chicago Uptown Theatre!

Good Morning, Gang!  Hope things are groovy where you are today!

The Uptown Theatre, 4814 N. Broadway, Chicago - Undated 1980's Photo, courtesy of CityOfChicago.org

Let's think Old School for a minute.  Specifically, those Old, Classic Movie Palaces, built in the 1920's, in local neighborhoods throughout big city America.  They brought glitz and glamor to these in-town locations.

As we all know, for most of the old, grand Movie Palaces, the wrecking ball has already come and gone.  Only a few remain.

In Chicago, only The Oriental on Randolph Street, The Chicago on State Street, and The Schubert on Monroe, remain - although as legitimate theatres and concert venues, rather than old-time movie houses.

There is one more still standing here in the city - but barely!   it has stood on North Side of Chicago, in the Uptown Neighborhood, about 5 miles due north of Downtown Chicago and The Loop.  It's The Uptown.

When I was a kid, back in the early 1960's, the glory days of The Uptown had long passed - as had the splendor of the surrounding neighborhood.  But us kids would head down there each Saturday morning to catch the latest Western, or, once, that new James Bond 007 movie - Dr. No.

The theatre had over 4,300 seats, and nearly 46,000 square feet of floor space - and still does, although it has been boarded up, and only sparsely maintained, since 1981.  It's gilded plaster work and five-story lobby went right by us when we were kids, but it was all the rage back when the theatre opened to the public, in August, 1925.  Today, the plaster is falling, and the seats and stage are very erie and quiet.  It's stands as an artifact to a long bygone era.

Rats far outnumber patrons these days, you know!

The Uptown did have a bit of a revival as a concert venue in the 1970's.  My buddies and I saw Bruce Springsteen there, about the time Born to Run came out.

Today, the ownership of the old place remains unclear.  It's title lie in trust of a since-defunct corporation.  But, there is hope!

The old palace is going on the auction block today, down at the Cook County Building, under the direction of Judicial Sales Corporation, which auctions foreclosed property every week here.  The likely sales price - hard to know - there aren't many 46,000 square foot 1920's movie palaces to comp it against around here, you know.  It could go for $10, or $10 Million.

That concert promoter from the 70's who put on a number of shows here, JAM Productions is expected to make a bid, with the goal of restoring The Uptown to much of its former splendor.  (Since the structure was designated a Chicago Landmark back in 1991, the fabulous exterior, and much of the interior, cannot be radically changed).

The estimated cost of a complete restoration - as much as $40 Million, perhaps.  And the chances for the venue to be profitable given its distance from the Downtown Chicago Theatre District - unknown.

But we hope this grand, classic entertainment palace - The Uptown - does come to life again.  It's part of Chicago history, and OUR history!

See our post today @ BlogChicagoHomes.com for more info, as well as a link to a story and video in yesterday's Chicago Tribune.  Reporter Chris Jones wrote the story, in his Theater Loop blog.

The photo included here comes from the official City of Chicago Website - CityofChicago.org.


Comment balloon 2 commentsDean Moss • July 29 2008 01:14PM
The Auction Block Awaits Historic Chicago Uptown Theatre!
Good Morning, Gang! Hope things are groovy where you are today! Let's think Old School for a minute. Specifically, those Old, Classic Movie Palaces, built in the 1920's, in local neighborhoods throughout big city America. They… more