Thursday, August 2, 2012

Steinway Hall

Built in 1896, Steinway Hall was located at 64 E Van Buren St.  The building went through a variety of name changes over the years and also housed a number of activities of interest to readers here.

Image courtesy the Steinway Hall Wikipedia page.

In its early days, the 11-story office building housed a number of architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright (who remained in the building until 1908). During this time, Steinway Hall was briefly being advertised as a "Temple of Magic."

Image courtesy the Chicago Magic blog.  While focusing on stage magic, there is definitely information of interest.

Image of the theater during it's run as the "Punch and Judy Theater" courtesy the Cinema Treasures website.

The 850-seat theater in the building originally was a branch of Ziegfeld's theaters (while the Follies were taking off in New York, Flo Ziegfeld was originally from Chicago).  The theater was home to acts such as Sophie Tucker and Fatty Arbuckle.  In 1915 the theater's name was changed and Shakespearean plays were produced.

The same theater was rented out by the Theosophical Society, who secured every Sunday for a six month period of time.  During this time, Charles Leadbeater lectured on a variety of subjects relating to the occult and Theosophy.  Leadbeater, having just arrived from England, packed the theater to the extent that would-be listeners regularly had to be turned away at the door.  His lectures here in Chicago would be published as the book Some Glimpses of Occultism Ancient and Modern.

In 1941, after the schism of C.F. Russell's Choronzon Club, one of the splinter groups housed itself at Steinway Hall (practically around the corner from the Fine Arts Building where they had previously met).  They would remain here until the 1960s, when they would return to the Fine Arts Building.    For more information on this, please visit my previous post regarding C.F. Russell and the Fine Arts Building.

Around this time the theater was being used to show adult movies.  Public sentiment had swayed against the building, and it was demolished on April 5, 1970.  Apparently it was written in the Chicago Tribune that “Few, if any, will mourn it.”

In its place, we now have a parking lot.

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