It might look like I traveled to the Middle East to take this picture, but I only traveled to the far South Side of Chicago to peek into the interior of the New Regal Theater.
If you’ve looked at my Our Chicago book, you know that Open House Chicago is my favorite public event in the city. Hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, buildings all over the city open their doors to the general public (for free!) for one weekend in October. Each year I squeeze as much Open House touring into that weekend as my family’s schedule allows. So yesterday, by happenstance of other obligations I had to fit in, I toured sites on the far north and far south neighborhoods of the city.
The lobby of the New Regal Theater was the title photo of this year’s event guide, and it was so enticing that I simply had to get there.
Luckily, the New Regal Theater is located not too far from where I live. In fact, I’ve driven by many times as the access ramp to the Chicago Skyway swings by just a block west of the theater.
I can’t believe I drove by hundreds of times without even knowing about the gem that lies below that Moorish style tower you see from the highway.
Even if this kind of opulence is not your style (it isn’t mine), you can’t help but be impressed by the fact that someone built something as ornate and elaborate as this. The New Regal Theater was originally called the Avalon Theater and built by architect John Eberson in the Moorish-revival style. It opened its doors in 1927. Not only is the interior stunning, it can also seat up to 2,250 people.
The New Regal Theater was the most stunning site I visited during Open House Chicago this weekend. Afterwards, the friend I was touring with and I kept racking our brains as to how this unbelievably beautiful theater could be a functional venue again as it still seems to be in better shape than you’d expect. To the naked eye, only the roof clearly needs repairs.
Sadly, the neighborhood is in disrepair as well. Fortunately, however, the theater is currently owned by a Chicago investor who wants to restore it to its former glory of a vibrant cultural venue. In any case, I’m thankful that I got to see it, and I sincerely hope it will be around for many years to come and remain a living example of the lavish styles of the past.