05 March, 2009

Ghost Ads as Revealed by Destruction of the Nortown Theatre

The Nortown Theatre at 6320 N. Western Ave in Chicago was my dad's favorite movie theatre. Designed by J.E.O. Pridmore, it was an atmospheric theater, which was known for it amazing sea horse, mermaid, and zodiac motifs. My dad used to tell me stories about how his mother would take him and his siblings there for a matinee. They would stop in one mom and pop store to buy candy, and in another to get popcorn, then they would spend all afternoon watching newsreels, cartoons, and movies.

The theatre was torn down in 2007. Had my father lived to see the day, it would have broken his heart. So much of his early memories were wrapped up in this plaster-and-terracotta palace. When Urban Remains of Chicago announced that they were selling some of the original decor, I dragged Ted over to their showroom, and bought a plaster panel like the one below, that was part of a repeating frieze on the second level. I found myself overwhelmed with nostalgia for a place I had never been, but one that had been so important to Dad, and I had to have it.

At the moment, it's packed away. We're not quite sure where, or how, to hang it.

For over a year now, every time we've driven past the spot where the theatre stood for generations, I've meant to take a picture. Not of the empty lot, that's too depressing. When the theatre was torn down, several "ghost" ads were revealed on the building next door. These advertised businesses that existed prior to 1931, the year the Nortown opened. Today (thanks for reminding me, Ted!) I finally managed to bring the camera along:

This wall is like a little time capsule of 1930s Chicago. I checked to see if The Bowmanville National Bank still existed, and I did find an old reference that it was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. However, when I pulled up the site on Google Maps, I found another bank, a bland and boring-looking one, in its place.

View Larger Map

So much great Chicago architecture is lost every year to be replaced with generic, uninspired buildings. Do you want to know what's going up in place of the Nortown Theatre? You guessed it. Condos. Phooey.

Nortown Terrace. When will it be built? Who knows. The site has been vacant for well over a year now.


Andy said...

As much as I hate to wish bad upon people, I hope the builders of those condos don't sell a single one.

I still drive by the bungalow some idiots completely swallowed up near Superdawg, and it looks like it's still either (a) under construction, or (b) vacant.

That makes me smile, all grinch-like. But too bad. They messed up something that actually looked nice and like it belonged.

Amy's Treasures said...

I grew up across the street from Nortown and it breaks my heart every time I look at pictures of what happened to the old girl after the gypsy church took over. All those beautiful murals painted over. All that graffiti....

what's worse was seeing the bulldozer inside.

truly heartbreaking

Joanne said...

Chicago really sucks when it comes to preserving our great architecture--and we're a city known for it!

It really upsets me when I see people buy historic properties, and then strip them or obscure all historic detail.