Friday, April 22, 2022

Wilson Avenue Theater, 1052 West Wilson Avenue, Chicago. (1909-1919)

On July 19, 1909, the Wilson Avenue Theater opened at 1052 West Wilson Avenue, Chicago.
It was one of the first large entertainment venues in the Uptown neighborhood, showing two vaudeville performances nightly. It was designed by Henry L. Ottenheimer and built for $50,000 ($1.6 million today) for the Jones, Linick, and Shaefer circuit. 
Wilson and Evanston (renamed to Broadway in 1913) Avenues Theater, Chicago, "High-Class Vaudeville," 1909 postcard. Note: "Theater" not theatre is the correct spelling; the postcard picture shows the correct spelling on the building twice.

The Theater had 600 seats on the main floor and 300 seats in the balcony. The interior was described as pretty, in 'buff' and 'gold' colors. There was a ceiling mural over the proscenium (the part of a theater stage in front of the curtain). The opening night show was not such a pretty sight. Acts from the American Music Hall in the Loop frequently performed there.
The Wilson Avenue Theater, 1909.

In 1919 it was converted to Fidelity Bank bank. Later, it became the Uptown State Bank, the Federal Trust, and Savings Bank, the Bank of Chicago, and finally, a TCF Bank.
Wilson Avenue Business District 1920s.

The building has a mural visible from the El on one side and a trompe-l'œil (French: deceives the eye; highly illusionist) mural on the other side. The interior still looks like a cross between a theater and a bank.
The Wilson Avenue Theater Building Today.

In November 2018, plans were announced to convert the building into a live music venue. After 23 years in business, the beloved Double Door rock club was evicted from its longtime Wicker Park location. The Double Door is working toward a debut this year (2022) in its new Uptown home. Because Double Door’s new location was most recently a bank, a downstairs vault is being transformed into a “mini venue lounge” that will host smaller acts daily.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Bank of Chicago, where I made my first $5 deposit back in 1965.

  2. My 2x great-grandfather was Tony Licalzi...he built and operated the theatre from around 1910, until his son Mitchell died.


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