Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lawrence Avenue demolition

Okay, Chicago architecture fans, it's time for a quiz! The question:

Which of the following is most likely to keep a building from being demolished?

A) Lavish, beautiful terra cotta ornament and decorative brick patterns
B) A series of occupied storefronts bringing in rental income
C) A location on a major thoroughfare, ensuring those businesses will continue to thrive
D) Easy access to a major public transportation service like the Brown Line L
E) A total lack of any obvious structural or facade problems
F) All of the above

Picked your answer? Good. If you answered "G), none of the above", congratulations! You truly know how Chicago works!

Meet the former Metro Theatre building, 3308 W. Lawrence Avenue:

Metro Theatre Building

Built in 1925 as the Terminal Theatre, it's integral to the wonderful commercial row facing the Brown Line terminus station across Lawrence.... though it won't be for much longer.

Lawrence Avenue

The theater closed long ago, its lobby converted to retail space. Those businesses seem to have been doing quite well, judging from the remnants they left behind. Every storefront was occupied -- the upstairs too. In 2006, the auditorium suffered a collapse and was demolished. The commercial portion of the building, which wrapped around it, appears to have soldiered on regardless.

Metro Theatre Building, before

Metro Theatre Building, after

Nevertheless, the siren call of money-grabbing condos was apparently too much, and the beautiful building is being destroyed, slicing a gash into the previously unbroken string of ornate early 20th Century buildings on these blocks.

Ornamental lintel

The tenant spaces appear to have been evacuated in a big hurry. Displays, ad posters, neon signs, and even some merchandise remain behind.


This is a beautiful and richly ornamented building. It features a two-tone brick pattern alternating thin and thick bricks in running bond. It is lavishly endowed with cream-colored glazed terra cotta ornament, none of which has been salvaged from the remaining portion of the building.

The demolition is a diminution of the public realm, and a real loss for Lawrence Avenue and Chicago at large. What a shame, what a shame.

- The Metro Theatre at Cinema Treasures

Ornamental dude


BW said...

There doesn't appear to be a demolition permit on file for this.

k of c said...

Thanks again for posting this on here and Flickr. The last photo is especially beautiful. I made sure to link to this on my blog, and I'm glad I rushed out to document what I could. A Korean store still had a lot of stuff inside; I wonder if anyone saved it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for documenting this! I was very sad to see such a beautiful building go.

meyger said...

Michael Phillipd, movie crritic of the Chicago Tribune is asking about old and gone movie theaters. I sent him this link on the Metro, one of Choicago's more unique theaters of the 30s and entered the auditorium from the lobby yhrough doors on either side of the screen....and so you saw the audience and not the screen! It was a B movie theater playing B movies....but it was great in its day.