Chicago Theatre sidewalk view CHICAGO THEATRE 

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WurliTzer (opus 434 )

Built in 1921, The Chicago Theatre became the flagship of the Chicago based Balaban & Katz theatre chain and remained so through the ABC-Paramount and later Plitt Theatres years. The theatre featured motion pictures and stage shows through the early fifties and remained a feature motion picture house until the final years of the Plitt Theatres. It was designed by the famous Rapp & Rapp architects and maintained its faded grandeur even through attempts to modernize it in the fifties. When it was determined that the show was closing CATOE volunteers regularly patrolled the show to prevent vandalism. The theatre was purchased from Plitt by a limited partnership and the theatre was restored to the original Rapp and Rapp decor and opened as a performing arts center in 1986. The theatre was leased to an theatrical operator and during the early years the future looked bright. Throughout the restoration CATOE volunteers assisted in the grunt work of readying the theatre for the restorers by such mundane chores as helping remove the old grimy carpeting and helping restore various aspects of the building, in addition to work on restoring the organ as part of an ambitious restoration program. When the theatre reopened as a performing arts center the WurliTzer console been refinished, modernized with a new relay and combination action and one chamber completely overhauled. Within several blocks of the Chicago were the other great movie houses, the Oriental (4/20 Wurlitzer), The State-Lake, (3/13 WurliTzer), The Roosvelt (3/20 Kimball), the United Artists (2/10 WurliTzer), The Woods, Garrick and Palace (which had no organs). Only the Chicago, Oriental and Palace survived and are now Performing Arts theatres. (additional information about the Chicago Theatre and its history is available from the Theatre Histoical Society, THS)
Looking North on State Street toward the Chicago Theatre
Chicago Marquee advertising Rosemary Bailey show
This State Street view of the front of the Chicago shows the brightly lighted Marquee promoting the CATOE program featuring Rosemary Bailey and the Johnny Frigo band (shown below) fund raising program for additional renovation of the Chicago WurliTzer. 
Rosemary Bailey and Johnny Frigo band
Initially the future of the Chicago Theatre and its organ looked for promising. After the first season the theatre operator found that Chicago was not producing the financial windfall that was expected and financial problems engulfed the operation. For whatever reason the earlier good working relationship that had existed between organ restoration and the theatre no longer existed and the ambitious program for organ restoration had to be put on hold. CATOE was no longer able to oversee the welfare of the organ and maintenance was assumed by a private individual. Since funding was not available for improvements to the organ, the condition of the organ continued to deteriorate and during this interval the DC blower motor burnt out twice and the second Posthorn rank disappeared.

For any possible program information check out the Current Theatre Organ Installation Database and type in:"IL" in state block and "Chicago" in Location(venue) block and click on Search Icon.

Chicago Theatre WurliTzer   Opus 434   Style 285SP
Chicago Theatre console (white)
ORGAN CONSOLE WAS PAINTED WHITE PRIOR TO OVERHAUL IN 1986
Refinished Chicago Theatre WurliTzer console
AS PART OF FIRST PHASE OF ORGAN RESTORATION CONSOLE WAS RESTORED TO NATURAL WOOD FINISH AND PETERSON ELECTRONIC RELAY AND COMBINATION ACTION WAS INSTALLED. BRASS CHAMBER WAS REBUILT AND SECOND TUBA MIRABILIS AND ENGLISH POSTHORN WAS REMOVED FOR REINSTALLATION IN SOLO CHAMBER AS RECOMMENDED BY GEORGE WRIGHT. DUE TO UNFORESEEN PROBLEMS WITH THE THEATRE SECOND PHASE OF RESTORATION WAS NOT STARTED. SEVERAL RECORDINGS WERE MADE OF THIS ORGAN BY GEORGE WRIGHT IN THE '70S. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE WRIGHT RECORDINGS.
CHICAGO THEATRE WURLITZER CHAMBER ANALYSIS
SOLO MAIN
SOLO STRING 16'
KINURA 
ORCHESTRAL OBOE
OBOE HORN 
BRASS SAXOPHONE
BRASS TRUMPET 
QUINTADENA 
VOX HUMANA 
SOLO TIBIA
KRUMET
CLARINET 16' 
VDO
VDO CELESTE
HORN DIAPASON 16'
OPEN DIAPASON 
BRASS SAXOPHONE
TUBA HORN 16'
CONCERT FLUTE
DULCIANA
CHRYSOGLOTT 
MARIMBA
PERCUSSION CHAMBER FOUNDATION CHAMBER
MASTER XYLOPHONE (re-iterating) 
XYLOPHONE (non re-iterating)
GLOCKENSPIEL 
BELLS
TAMBOURINE 
CASTANETS 
WOOD BLOCK 
SNARE DRUM 
BASS DRUM 
CRASH CYMBAL
VOX HUMANA 
DIAPHONIC DIAPASON 16'
GAMBA
GAMBA CELESTE
TIBIA CLAUSA 16'
HARMONIC FLUTE 4'
BRASS CHAMBER  UPPER CHAMBER (non pipe)
TUBA MIRABILIS 16' * 
ENGLISH HORN 16' *
CONTAINS PNEUMATIC
RELAY AND TOP OF 32' DIAPHONE 
SPEAKS THROUGH THIS CHAMBER
* (Note 1) When Jesse Crawford returned to play at the Chicago during the period of "THE CENTURY  OF PROGRESS" the Tuba Mirabilis and English Post Horn were removed from the UPTOWN  THEATRE and installed to augment the original TUBA MIRABILIS and ENGLISH HORN  in the BRASS CHAMBER.  After the UPTOWN pipes were put into storage during the 1980's  renovation, the Post Horn was borrowed without the theatre management's knowledge for a  organ program at another theatre. The pipes disappeared and no one appears to know what happened to them.  The program was sponsored by another organ club and  CATOE was not involved. There were three consoles on this organ. The second console was installed in 1924 so that the Crawford's  could play duets.  The second console was sold the Pete Howell and was used to control an organ that Howell built for the Al Carney radio studio in Chicago. After Carney's death the organ was sold to the seminary at Mundelein, Illinois and installed in the auditorium. In the early thirtys a slave console was obtained for use on the stage during shows.  When stage productions were discontinued, it was stored for many years above the lighting board before it was  sold to Stan Todd in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Slave console was updated with working stop tablets and was used for many years in the Shady Nook Restaurant. The console was purchased recently by John Giacchi and completely rebuilt for installation in his home in Australia.

(Note 2) When the organ was installed in 1921 it was 25 ranks. The Tibia was considered an accompaniment rank until Jesse Crawford developed his unique approach to the theatre organ. Between 1921 and 1924 a Solo Tibia and Vox Humana were added to the Solo Chamber at Jesse's request and the another Brass Saxophone was added to the Main replacing the Salicional. A second console and new relay were also installed to support the pipe changes and allow the Crawfords to play together on twin consoles. After Jesse Crawford opened the Chicago in 1921 he discovered Helen Anderson, who was playing the Kimball at the Roosevelt Theatre a block south of the Chicago. In 1923 she became Mrs. Jesse Crawford and joined her husband at the twin consoles at the Chicago in 1924. 

(Note 3) The original Chicago console was located at the right side of the orchestra pit on a water lift. In 1924 the orchestra pit was re-configured and a new console was installed on the water lift which had been relocated to the left side of the orchestra pit. (This became Helen's console) The original console was set on the right end of the Peter Clark Orchestra lift. Sometime after the Crawfords moved on to New York the console on the orchestra lift was sold.

Lee Maloney demonstrates Chicago WurliTzer, May 2000
Chicago Theatre WurliTzer -2000. Chicago Area organist Lee Maloney demonstrates the organ for a CATOE tour group visiting the Chicago on May 6th.
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                                                                                                                  updated 19 April 2012