Many residents of Chicago’s north side might be surprised to learn there was once a movie palace at 6427 N. Sheridan Road in the Rogers Park neighborhood that was every bit as grand as the Uptown Theatre, and perhaps more so. It was torn down in 1990 because of its supposed “ruined condition,” a claim many people continue to dispute.
The Granada was designed by Edward Eichenbaum of Levy & Klein. Eichenbaum also designed the Century, Regal, and Marbro theatres. Of these, only the exterior facade of the Century, now a shopping mall, remains.
Decorations for the Granada were taken from actual palaces, churches, and villas throughout Italy and Spain. “If there was a crack in the marble [of the original], then we kept it or put it in the plaster reproduction,” he said.
The Granada was constructed in 1926, the year following the opening of the Uptown, and was designed for both films and stage shows. It was part of the Marks Brothers circuit, one of the major theater owner/operators in Chicago. In 1934, the theatre was purchased by Balaban and Katz. It continued showing films all the way into the seventies. After that time, it was used for rock concerts, eventually closing in the mid-eighties.
In 1988, it was acquired by Senior Life Styles Corporation, the ones responsible for demolishing the building for a planned apartment/commercial structure.
As Bruce Sharpe’s photo on this page shows, the Granada was still in remarkably good shape as recently as 1987. While it was allowed to deteriorate after that, eyewitnesses to the demolition mourn the fact that there was little wrong with the theatre structurally, that it could, in fact, have been saved.
Despite efforts to landmark the theatre or get it reopened, the Granada’s fate was sealed. Much of the terra cotta of the facade was stripped and sold off, as were many of the interior decorative elements. One of the large chandeliers from the lobby was salvaged and now hangs in the Riviera Theatre. Another, smaller, chandelier hangs in the Music Box on Southport.
As part of its Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) project, the National Park Service took extensive photographs of the interior and exterior of the theatre. In its report it said, “The Granada Theatre...is a superb example of the excessively ornamented architecture used for theaters during the early days of moving pictures. Both its exterior, in terra cotta, and its interior, largely in plaster and marble, were then and still are unsurpassed in their outright architectural exuberence. Furthermore, the Granada was the largest theater built for its original owners the Marks Brothers, and remains one of the largest surving buildings of its type in the United States.”
The report goes on to say that the primary reasons for the Granada’s historic significance include:
Perhaps the most heartbreaking element of the HABS report is one of its closing statements: “The Granada had survived in essentially unaltered condition until the past two years (1988-89), when it was left unattended and the weather and vandalism were allowed to proceed unchecked.” This was a demolition that could have been avoided.
The HABS report included several dozen photos of the interior and exterior of the Granada Theatre, taken shortly before demolition. While it is depressing to see the damage the theatre suffered in its final two years, especially during a time when movie palaces across the country were being renovated to the benefit of communities large and small, these photos do show in great detail the artistry of Edward Eichenbaum.
To view each photo in this series, simply click the “Next Image” or “Previous Image” links on each page. You may also go straight to an image from the directory below.Next Image>>>