Ramova Theater in Bridgeport to be restored

by mark dalton on 2/9/07

Ramova Theater

Plans are in the works to turn Bridgeport‘s historic Ramova Theater into a restaurant and bakery, according to a tidbit buried towards the back of a story that ran earlier this month in the Near West Gazette. Much of the theater’s original architecture will be left intact, the Gazette reports.

Built in the late 1920s near 35th and Halsted, the roughly 1,100-seat theater showed movies until it was abandoned in the 1980s, according to the site Jazz Age Chicago. Since then, the building has fallen into disrepair.

In 2002, the city’s Department of Planning and Development sought bids to redevelop the theater, but as recently as 2005 it seemed destined for the wrecking ball as development continued in the neighborhood.

Later that same year, Maureen Sullivan of the preservationist group Save The Ramova started an online petition and blog detailing the group’s work with the city and Ald. James Balcer (11th). Surprisingly, the site hasn’t been updated since December 2006. Preservation Chicago, which also went to bat for the Ramova, has no new information either. Is it just too soon to celebrate, or have plans for the restoration changed?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

irishpirate February 9, 2007 at 1:00 PM

Interesting factoid about the Ramova is that it is basically the big sister to the Music Box Theater on Southport. Same thing except about twice the size.

I have never been in the Ramova but I have been in the similarly sized Portage Theater on Milwaukee. Those are BIG places.

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Joe February 9, 2007 at 1:27 PM

If I had a nickel for every time my wife and I said “hey, wouldn’t it be great to buy and restore the Ramova,” then, well, I’d probably have enough money to buy and restore the Ramova. Though from the tone of the article, I get the impression this is just hot air from Balcer. I certainly haven’t heard anything about it.

That said, it would be great if it did happen. A movie theater would be even better, of course. That’s actually one thing that is missing on the near SW side. There really isn’t one between River East, Chatham 14 and the one on 62nd and Western that I’ve never been to. Something on 35th and Halsted would draw from the rapidly gentrifying (or at least gentrifying) areas of Chinatown, near South, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, Pilsen and McKinley Park. Plus it would probably be the closest theater that many Hyde Parkers would be willing to go.

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Bryan February 9, 2007 at 1:29 PM

FANTASTIC! I can only hope though that they do alterations in such a manner that the auditorium could easily be put back into film/live performance service if/when there is more demand in Bridgeport for such a venue.

Excellent news though. Another one dodges the wrecking ball!

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mixed emotions February 9, 2007 at 2:52 PM

After all the hush hush of this project for over a year from the Alderman James Balcer its a big let down to find out its going to be a Restaurant/Bakery. We have those in our neighborhood already. Gee, Maybe next week he will tell us that we will be getting another McDonalds along Halsted St. Or maybe another Dollar Store.

While its nice to see the building being saved. It worries me to hear that they are going to save “as much as possible” what exactly does that mean.

We need something with Character. We need something with history. We need something we don’t have in the neighborhood. But then again maybe this does scream what our alderman’s character is all about…more of the same crap over and over again! No new ideas!

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arts lover February 9, 2007 at 3:13 PM

Now if only they’d do something about the Patio at Irving & Austin, which has been “undergoing renovation” for more than a decade!

BTW there was a movie multiplex in the South Loop in the Burnham Plaza building which was shut down, also the Hyde Park Theatre at Harper & 53d which is going to be put to some non-movie use.

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Joe February 9, 2007 at 3:32 PM

Bakeries in Bridgeport? We don’t have any of those! Wait, unless you count the Ace Bakery on Halsted. Or that Panaderia on the same block of Halsted. Or the Impala, three streets over from Halsted.

Seriously, if I had unlimited funds, that would be a restaurant/bar/movie theater. There really isn’t one in Chicago–where you can go in, watch a movie, order dinner, have a few drinks, etc. It’s a ton of fun and a cheap date. Kids’ pizza parties on weekend matinees; new releases (or quasi-new releases) during the primetime hours; cult films for the late night shows; and maybe even big sporting events.

There was a place just like that where I grew up and went to college–it was an absolute ton of fun.

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Joe February 9, 2007 at 3:38 PM

“BTW there was a movie multiplex in the South Loop in the Burnham Plaza building which was shut down, also the Hyde Park Theatre at Harper & 53d which is going to be put to some non-movie use.”

I never understood why the Burnham Plaza theater shut down just as the South Loop started to get hot.

As for Hyde Park, I used to be a regular at the Rat Theatre. It was called that because on two separate occasions, my wife saw a rat scamper down the aisle during the middle of a show. It was OK, though. The place was usually so empty that you could just prop your feet up on the chair in front of you to avoid the vermin.

It’s probably not a surprise why that place shut down.

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mixed emotions February 9, 2007 at 3:57 PM

Bakeries in Bridgeport:

Not including all the Chinese ones from Chinatown
Ace Bakery 3200 S Halsted
Bridgeport Bakery 2907 S Archer
Bruno’s Bakery 3341 S Lituanica
Imallaria Bakery & Deli 2952 S Wallace
La Baguette Bakery 3251 S Halsted
La Guadalupuna Bakery 2025 W 35th St

Are a bunch along 18th street near halsted as well. Chinatown has tons of Chinese bakeries. Not to mention Back of the Yards has a bunch as well.

We need something in this neighborhood that is not already within a short distance. But to spend taxpayer’s money to help restore something that WE ALREADY HAVE is beyond me.

The city has sat on this land for a long time. They said the land next door to it which they recently aquired was important to the developer’s plan so the Taxpayers bought out that land as well. Why did we WASTE the taxpayers money bring in more land to help someone bring in something that we already have. If we are going to use OUR money it should be for something WE NEED!

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Joe February 9, 2007 at 4:11 PM

Yeah, I was kind of being sarcastic about the bakeries.

I wouldn’t get too much in arms. I kind of read the comment in the link as a Balcer pipe dream. Even money that the Ramova Theater is in the same shape that it is now in 2010.

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anon February 9, 2007 at 4:40 PM

Sorry about your bad experience; I visited the HPT quite a few times in the 1990s and never encountered any critters, although I suppose in ANY business where food is served that’s a potential problem. Back then, the biggest complaint was that the theatre chain that owned/booked the place back then, regarded it as a “dumping ground” for horror flicks and action movies until I joined a neighborhood committee (EVERYONE IN HYDE PARK belongs to at least one!) to put pressure on the booking agency to play a more diverse selection of current and second-run films on the 5 screens. They complied, and the place actually became an asset to the community. But then Meridian took over and ran the place into the ground, along with their other theatres. Too bad!

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Maureen December 8, 2008 at 5:09 PM

Good news folks! The Save the Ramova group is still up and running. I have updated the blog (didn’t between 12/06 and 4/07–sorry, sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid and most earnest plans). As evidence that our group has made an impact, take a look at South Halsted and then at the fact the old girl is still standing. That’s AMAZING! It looks like Detroit in spots, yet the theater still stands. Alderman Balcer has pledged, in print to Save the Ramova! We will make him stand by that statement or die trying! Go to our site http://www.savetheramova.com We have a blog and do allow people to comment about whatever they’d like…they just don’t for some reason. Do get involved! We have collected almost 2000 signatures, letters, support emails and some other support. We are keeping the home fires burning, but between the city owning it and now the lovely economy the wheels of progress turn very slowly.
Viva La Ramova!

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