“We urge the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to Landmark the Central Park Theater at 3535 W. Roosevelt Road in North Lawndale.
“Chicago was once home to hundreds of neighborhood movie palaces, a type of movie house that was pioneered in the city. More than just a place to see a movie, these structures were places to escape from everyday life for working class Chicagoans. Featuring ornate designs, today very few of these structures remain, and even fewer remain in their original configuration.
“The Central Park Theater, located in the historic and ever-changing North Lawndale community on Chicago’s West Side, is arguably one of the most historically important movie houses in the United States. The first Balaban & Katz movie palace (also in collaboration with the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp), the Theater is by most accounts the first movie palace constructed in the nation and was the model for those that came after it.
“With nearly 1,800 seats, the Theater opened in 1917 in what was once the hub of Chicago’s Jewish community. During the 1950s North Lawndale became a focal point for the city’s African-American community, and in 1971 the Theater transitioned into both a church and a community cultural center. While the church still operates in the Theater and has been an important steward of the site, they lack the resources to support its full restoration to resume functioning as a theater and cultural hub for the community. Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, the Theater’s future is uncertain.
By nominating the Central Park Theater for landmark
status, the future is brighter for the Theater and its potential to be a beacon showcasing the beauty of North Lawndale and Chicago as a whole. A coalition of partners is joining with the theater owner – House of Prayer Church of God in Christ – to plan for a sustainable reuse and redevelopment of the theater, which landmark status would greatly help achieve.” (Petition to Landmark the Central Park Theater)