Calumet 412 had the rare treat to take a private tour of the Uptown Theater last night. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, so the pictures here are from cinematreasures.org.
First, I have to say,this was the most amazing interior that I have ever seen in not only Chicago, but any other city. These photographs do not give the detail, scale and size of the theater justice. At 46,000 square feet, it is by far the largest theater space in Chicago.
The other thing that I was impressed with was, despite some expected decay and a few places with slight structural damage, the theater is remarkably still intact.
Here are a few other takeaways from the 1.5 hours that we spent there:
1) Every inch of the theater is a decorative arts marvel. Too many things to cite here, but the ceilings alone deserve historical status.
2) Standing under the procenium, I could not help but think of all those who had stood there before, looking out onto the almost 4,400 seat room. It’s massive - think of the Chicago Theater or the Aragon, neither of which can hold a candle to the size of the Uptown.
3) The structural integrity of the entire building is more than sound. Standing on the balcony here feels safer than the one at the Riv - those of you who have danced there know what I mean.
4) I was also impressed that there is no smell - one would expect it to reek of decay and mold. The current owners, JAM Productions, have done a great job keeping it as maintained as possible.
5) There are over 36,000 lights in the theater. All of the original chandeliers, sconces and light fixtures are currently in storage and will be restored.
6) The seats in the balcony are original from 1925.
7) The women’s lounge and bathroom is amazing. Looking into the room length mirror, I thought of the countless women who had stood before it.
8) Off the Lawrence St entrance there is a nursery. Women, who were in the neighborhood shopping, could check their bags and drop off their children here while they caught a matinee. This room probably held the most ghosts for me, as the original 1925 decorations are still on the walls.
9) JAM Productions is committed to restoring the theater to its ORIGINAL glory. Missing details will be reproduced and modern amenities will be created to look vintage.
10) Much of the theater will be featured in the opening sequence of the upcoming Transformers movie.
I could go on-and-on, but these were some of the highlights.
The good news is, restoration is CURRENTLY underway. Two-thirds of the renovation cost has been raised, with fundraisers scheduled next year for the remainder.
Restoration of this architectural marvel will be the catalyst for the revival of Uptown and its redevelopment as Chicago’s entertainment destination.
Video I took of a bunch of NOLA jazz musicians playing “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” in the observation car of an Amtrak train.
Chicago Skyline from Indiana, across Lake Michigan.
oh wow holy shit Dana
EDIT: Matt Morris provides some context (thanks, Matt!):
DeGiulio is a former student of Michelle Grabner, who operates the Suburban, and is currently a colleague — both teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. To underwrite the expenses of this project, DeGiulio sold a painting of Grabner’s that had been given to her as a gift earlier in their relationship. She consigned the work with James Cohan Gallery, who started representing Grabner in the time since she was announced as one of the three curators of the 2014 Whitney Biennial (an exhibition DeGiulio will not appear in). With the proceeds of the painting’s sale, DeGiulio purchased a 1996 Buick Sedan. On the morning of Sunday, November 17th, she wrecked the car into the original 8’x8’ Suburban gallery space. Grabner and her partner Brad Killam confirmed that afternoon that the building’s integrity has been compromised beyond repair, and whatever they decide to do with the gallery space moving forward, it will involve demolishing the current structure. The car is crumpled up against the front of the structure, and long, deep cracks (and considerable gaps between cinder blocks) fracture the building. A fold out brochure accompanies the wreck, with accompanying inscriptions such as this from Adrienne Rich: “And I believed I was loved, I believed I loved Who did this to us,” and from Laurie Anderson, “O Superman, O mom and dad.”]
Dana DeGiulio, Untitled, 2013. A car rammed backwards into The Suburban gallery in Oak Park, Chicago, perhaps “totaling” the architecture of the building.
See in the window at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Courtesy of NBC5 Chicago Facebook Page
I’m thrilled that I won’t see them on the Devil in the White City Tour or birdwatching in Osaka Gardens.
Imagine my relief of not having to jostle the French in the buffet line at B.J.’s Market and Bakery during Sunday brunch or worry about seeing banana hammocks while on the beach at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Since the French are not advised to go south of 59th Street, I’m sure I won’t see any tourists admiring the homes in the Jackson Park Highland’s neighborhood.
When the weather man warns of rain…
Matchbook from Mabel’s “Where the Customer Comes First,” Rush Street, 1950’s, Chicago.