Grand Chandeliers from Chicago's Uptown Theater May Be Returning

WTTW in Chicago is reporting that the Rapp & Rapp designed Uptown Theater will be undergoing a $75 Million restoration. (See the original article here: WTTW Uptown Theater.) The fabulous chandeliers that were a part of the opulent decor of the magnificent movie palace have been stored offsite for more than 20 years.

When the Uptown opened in 1925, it was the 12th largest movie palace in the United States. It was built by the Balaban & Katz Corporation, owners of a chain of theaters in Chicago. The Uptown was a fabulous theater, built north of Chicago in the Uptown neighborhood, even more fabulous than any theater in The Loop.

By the 1980s, like many urban theaters, the Uptown fell on hard times. The last performance there was by the J. Geils Band on December 19, 1981 and it closed that night. Although designated a Chicago landmark in 1991, disuse led to water damage and vandalism. Vandals had stolen many of the grand artifacts from the grand old theater.

A mechanical engineer, named Curt Mangel volunteered to aid in maintenance of the theater. Mangel also did work for the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills. Jasper Sanfilippo is a noted collector of mechanical musical devices, theater organs and artifacts saved from movie palaces. Mangel asked if Mr. Sanfilippo could store the fabulous chandeliers that were still in the Uptown but in grave danger. While at the estate, the chandeliers underwent cleaning and restoration.

The chandeliers were built by the Pearlman & Company. The largest is about 14' tall and currently is on display in the Pace de la Musique at the Sanfilippo Estate. Other Uptown chandeliers are also on display there.

Mr. Sanfilippo began reproducing the chandeliers and agreed to return the originals to the Uptown if it was ever restored. In June 2018, plans were announced for a a $75 million restoration of the theater, scheduled to begin in August 2019 for completion in 2021.

The Sanfilippo Foundation is private, however, it is sometimes open to the public for tours and concerts. (Click on the name for information.)

For more on the Uptown Theater, see Cinema Treasures or WTTW's "Taking a Look at Uptown 40 Years Ago" or the Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads website article titled A History of the Uptown Theatre.

Elements of this article came from numerous sources.


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