Tag Archives: lobby

OPULENT by mabel65

As one of the first motion picture palaces whose décor was inspired by the Far East, Chicago’s ORIENTAL THEATER opened to much fanfare on May 8, 1926. Designed by George L. and Cornelius W. Rapp for theater managers Balaban and Katz, the theater, a virtual museum of Asian art, presented popular first-run motion pictures, complemented by lavish stage shows. Turbaned ushers led patrons from the lobby, with polychrome figures and large mosaics of an Indian prince and princess, through an inner foyer with elephant-throne chairs and multicolored glazed Buddhas, to the auditorium’s “hasheesh-dream décor.” Among the many stars that played the theater are The Three Stooges, Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Stepin Fetchit, Sophie Tucker, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Fanny Brice, Danny Kaye and Alice Faye. During a record-breaking week in 1930, as many as 124,985 patrons visited the Oriental to see the hit film “Flight.” Although management changed hands several times in the subsequent decades, the theater continued to feature films until the early 1970s, at which time the M&R Amusement Company briefly presented live performances by such artists as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Little Richard.

Soon the theater fell into disrepair. In an effort to preserve the theater, it was added to the Federal National Registry of Historic Places in 1978, but the building continued to crumble. The theater was closed to the public in 1981, and the site was considered for shopping mall and a 1,600 seat cinema. In 1996, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that the Oriental would be restored to its original grandeur for the presentation of live stage musicals by Livent, Inc. Renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997, the restoration of the theater was completed in October 1998, at which time it was opened with the Chicago premiere of RAGTIME. The venue was acquired by SFX Theatrical Group in 1999, and its production of FOSSE debuted at the Oriental Theater before embarking on a national tour. The list of hits goes on, including the pre-Broadway premiere of BLAST in 2000, the world premiere of SING-A-LONG Wizard of Oz in January 2003 and the record-breaking run of WICKED from 2005 to 2009.

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ENTER HERE by mabel65

The street level lobby…

The CHICAGO ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION building’s façade, which is strongly reminiscent of the Doges Palace in Venice, was designed to give the Chicago Athletic Association a distinctive identity when viewed from the lakefront, particularly by visitors to the World’s Columbia Exposition of 1893. The architect, Henry Ives Cobb, who was a club member, was well known for his designs for the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and several buildings at the University of Chicago. Although the club survived the Great Depression, by 2007 declining membership finally forced it’s closing.

After the requisite period of failed deals, the property was purchased for $13 million in 2012 by AJ Capital Partners LLC and Geolo and Agman which committed over $60 million to convert and restore the clubhouse into a four-star hotel. Simply dubbed the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the totally restored 122 year old Venetian Gothic building and its 241 rooms are now officially open for business.

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Hyatt III by pamastro

The lobby of the Royal Dearborn Hotel. It opened in 1976 as a Hyatt Regency, complete with its own monorail connecting it to the neighboring Fairlane Shopping Center. It was designed by Charles Luckman with the open lobby concept popularized by John Portman. Today the monorail and Hyatt name are both just memories but the hotel still stays open.

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