Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let The Show Begin!

I took a trip into Chicago with friends for a theatre tour.  I thought to myself what could be so interesting about theatres that I went to as a child, young adult and older adult that I had never noticed before as special.  Oh well, I figured the lunch would be worth the trip.

This is the entrance to the Oriental Theatre, built in 1926 by the Rapp brothers and run by Babalan and Katz.  It began as a vaudeville theatre went on to movies and stage shows to its present day of Broadway shows.

It is now known as the Oriental Ford Theatre.  After falling into disrepair it was completely restored in the late nineties and saved from becoming a shopping mall.

The Oriental is heavily adorned with an Asian feel, but also incorporates Africa and East Indian artwork.

Marble, brass and mosaic abound on the ornate staircases.  Ushers were even dressed as if they stepped out of history as Aladdin seeing people to their fifty cent seats.

An original sconce on the staircase

This is one of two large chandeliers hanging in the lobby.  One was auctioned off when the theatre went through bad times and later found in a farmer's barn in Kenosha, Wisconsin and restored to its original position.

The original vintage lighting was spectacular, note the monkeys supposedly the Rapp brothers depiction of Babalan and Katz.

In the main part of the theatre statues loom over the audience where we may have seen July Garland (then known as part of the Gum sisters) Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, George Burns and Gracie Allen, the Three Stooges and many more.

The new mayor has kept the city beautiful, one of the many planters that line the streets of Chicago.

A little sculptural interest along the way.  I know I have seen this artist's work before, I think at the Art Institute.

A couple of blocks later we arrived at the Palace Theatre now known as the Cadillac Palace also designed by the Rapp brothers and opened in 1926.

This theatre lobby is constructed of marble but does not have the same over the top ornamentation as the Oriental.

The Palace Theatre has also been restored to its original glory and is now host to many Broadway Shows.  It was the previous home to Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, Mae West and Bob Hope.

On to lunch at Lawry's Prime Rib which is also housed in a Historic building.

This is the four story McCormick Mansion built before the turn of the century.  It had twenty-five rooms including a ballroom on the fourth floor.  It was leased in 1935 to a casino which during prohibition did not last long.

Through the years the McCormick Mansion changed, lost two upper stories due to a construction accident and the front was redone to become the Kungsholm, a Swedish smorgasbord, with can you believe an Opera puppet show.

The puppets were about thirteen inches tall and operated from underneath to phonograph music and later tape tracks.  The Kungsholm was in existence from about 1940 to 1971.

It is now Lawry's Prime Rib (Lawry's Seasoned Salt) and it was one of the best lunches I have ever had!

In fact, it was one of the best days I have ever had.


Larry said...

What amazinglybeautiful structures and such an interesting post! Larry

BernieH said...

Wow, wow and even more Wows! What spectacular interiors. How absolutely wonderful that the Oriental wasn't turned into a shopping mall. I feel there's nothing worse than walking into a wonderful old building to find it full of shops! How extraordinary that the chandelier was found and returned to its original home. Thanks for sharing these fabulous places. I would think the day was well spent.

Diana LaMarre said...

Great post, Eileen. How fortunate to find the old chandy in a farmer's barn.

I envy all the wonderful places you get to vist!

Gatsbys Gardens said...


This is another place you would love with all of the stained glass lighting. They were able to preserve just about all of the original lighting.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Bernie,

It was our former Mayor who really pulled the strings to renovate the Oriental Theatre and not turn it into something else.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Zoey,

The farmer saw an article in the chicago paper looking for missing fixtures from the theatre. They didn't believe he had it when he first called, obviously they believed him when they saw it hanging in the barn. He told them it wouldn't fit anywhere else!


Lona said...

Wow! The details in the ornamentation in these theaters are amazing. So beautiful. I am so glad they were able to keep them and restore them so others could enjoy them. They are rare treasures to be kept.

Betty819 said...

Never been to Chicago so what a treat this post has been. Thank You for sharing it with us. It is nice to know that some Mayors recognize some things are worth preserving. I wonder with the economy being what it is, the theatre might be hurting for patrons.

Balisha said...

This very interesting post took me back to the "old days" My parents and I made many trips to Chicago and the Oriental was part of my life. Wonderful seeing these pictures. Balisha

garden girl said...

Oh how I love those old theaters Eileen! Seeing plays has always been one of my favorite reasons to go into the city.

I remember Kungsholm well. We went their as kids. The last time I was there was on a field trip in 6th or 7th grade. We saw "Madame Butterfly." The puppet shows were amazing.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Lona,

The detail was wonderful, never really noticed it all the times before I had been in this theatre. It was usually in the evening and not as well lit.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Betty,

Our last Mayor was wonderful and did a lot to beautify the city. I grew up in the city and it has never been more beautiful.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Balisha,

My parents also took us downtown a lot and we used to go to the theatres to see the stage shows and then a move and then out to dinner.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi GG,

The Kungsholm was great, remember bringing my children there when they were very young. The puppets have all been brought back from the Museum of Science and Industry and will be on display soon.


joey said...

What a delightful day and stunning structures, impossible to duplicate today. Many similar treasures here in Detroit too, Eileen. Always in awe to see them. Great photos and thank you for the tour.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Eileen, thank you so much for this wonderful tour! The architecture is great! The post made me a bit nostalgic. I miss Theater! I wish Americans loved theater as much as they love sports! I lived in Moscow for 7 years, and it was the time felled with great performances. I could watch my favorite shows 5-6 times. But now.... once a year? Anyway, I am grateful to you for this article!

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Beautiful places, Eileen! Thanks so much for this wonderful post!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Joey,

It was a great day, lots of history.


Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Tatyana,

We are lucky that Chicago gets a large number of current Broadway plays, operas and ballets but only because these theatres have been preserved and renovated.


Mary Anne said...

What a fabulous tour Eileen. Sounds and looks so interesting, ending with a lunch that also sounded like you wouldn't hesitate to go back. Great photographs Eileen! The Oriental Theater not my, so gaudy. Loved the rest.

Mary Anne ox


What an amazing tour, Eileen. I can see why it was such a great day for you. I love that so much effort was put in to these magnificent structures. Thank you for taking us along.

Gloria Bonde said...

Eileen, your pictures are so beautiful. I love the cinco de mayo red rose. I was so tempted to purchase one that I saw at one of those big box stores, but it was rated for a warmer zone.
Do you think it would grow in my 4b zone? I am wanting a fragrant, reblooming red rose. I found a spot for one.