Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Illinois Theatre, 65 East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois.

The Illinois Theatre opened its doors on October 15, 1900, built for theatrical producer and manager Charles Frohman.
It was designed by Benjamin Howard Marshall, who later, with partner Charles Eli Fox, would go on to design such Chicago landmarks as the Drake Hotel and the Blackstone Theatre and Blackstone Hotel.
The Illinois Theatre, which cost over a quarter million dollars to erect, was a jewel of Beaux-Arts architecture, inspired by the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago almost a decade earlier, and sat 1,249 people.

The three-story facade was faced in limestone, with a row of Ionic columns above the main entrance. Above the colonade, five porthole-like windows ringed by terra-cotta wreathes each had a lion’s head, also of terra cotta, below them. The theatre’s name was inscribed just below the cornice in large letters.
For many years, both the Illinois Theatre and the Princess Theatre, both downtown, were two of Chicago’s most well-known legitimate theatres, their stages hosting some of the most celebrated names of early 20th century theatre.

However, by the early 1910s, the Illinois Theatre had become the Chicago home of the Ziegfeld Follies, and presented both live stage reviews as well as motion pictures, before turning entirely to movies in the 1920’s.

The Illinois Theatre was shuttered during the Depression, and never reopened, being demolished in 1936 for a parking lot, the same fate the Princess Theatre would face a few years later.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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