Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads is located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Just over a century ago, the area was little more than a rural outpost, but within the span of twenty years Uptown became the North Side’s premiere retail and entertainment district. Large apartment hotels sprang up everywhere. There were impressive office buildings, shops, restaurants, dance halls, ballrooms, magnificent beaches and resorts. But the crown jewel of this district was, without a doubt, the Uptown Theatre.
Built in 1925, it was among the largest movie palaces ever created. It attracted people from all across the city with its combination of top-notch entertainment, customer service, and breathtaking architecture. The Uptown was built with a lavishness that is not seen in modern architecture.
The theatre has been closed for many years, due in part to the overall decline of the Uptown neighborhood itself. Over the years, many plans have been brought forth to restore the theatre as a concert venue or space for live performances. None of these have made it beyond the planning stages. Perhaps the timing was never right or the economic risk too great.
“A student of the city will have to hurry if he expects to take home a memory of the older Chicago. In one region, the near north side, benign nineteenth century houses are fairly tumbled before the invasion of smart, tall, money-making buildings.”— Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, Chicago: The History of Its Reputation, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1929
However, Uptown is experiencing a renaissance and redevelopment that rivals its initial growth in the early twentieth century. Old buildings are being rehabbed, new condos are springing up like mushrooms, and new businesses are moving in. A Borders Books stands across the intersection from the theatre and just down the road at Wilson Yard a major retail development including a Target is being planned. Compass Rose has been here since late 2003, and even in that short span of time the changes have been staggering.
We have spoken with many of our neighbors and fellow businessmen and the desire is there to see the theatre restored to the betterment of us all. We decided to host this signature drive to document the interest that exists for its use as an entertainment venue and to increase awareness about the renovation and reuse potential of an important historic landmark. It is meant to be a friendly petition that allows signers to share their memories of the theatre and their hopes and ideas for its restoration. When someone with the foresight and resources is ready to step forward and champion the Uptown we hope that they will read the signatures gathered here and know just how important this theatre is to the community.
In addition to the online signature drive, we have created an Adobe® PDF version and a Microsoft® Word version that you can download. Feel free to print it out and gather handwritten signatures from your friends, family, neighbors, or classmates. We’d like to reach everyone in the Uptown neighborhood, young and old, as well as the greater Chicago area. But even if you’re not from Illinois, we welcome you to help out. A treasure such as the Uptown Theatre belongs to everyone. When you are done collecting signatures, you may send your copy of the petition back to us at:
Chicago has some of the most amazing movie palaces that were ever built. We only hope that someone can step forward with a viable plan to save this beautiful theatre for posterity. In the meantime, we will continue to gather signatures and document the desire people have to see this theatre restored.