The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved the submission of the Ramova Theater located at 3518 S Halsted Street in Bridgeport to the National Historic Register. Designed by Chicago architect Meyer O. Nathan, the neighborhood theater opened simultaneously with its sister theater, the Music Box, in Lake View in 1929.
The once 1,500-seat space was twice the size of the Music Box, both being designed to be Atmospheric theaters. This style peaked in popularity in the late 1920’s with over 100 built and focuses on evoking a feeling of being outdoors in a specific setting through architectural ornamentation, projections, and/or lighting. The Ramova itself is designed in a Spanish Revival style utilizing Spanish tile, archways, and Moorish-style ornamentation.
The walls around the stage appear to be the exteriors of different Spanish homes in varying heights featuring faux balconies, windows, and doors adorned with awnings surrounding the seating area. Topped with a blue-painted ceiling representing the night sky, the space is meant to feel like a private courtyard where you once enjoyed first run films. The lobby continues the same theme in a beige stucco and red accents motif, intricate moulding adorns the ‘building’ tops with a triple archway welcoming you to the main room.
The name Ramova was chosen through a community contest and is the Lithuanian word for ‘peaceful place’ representing the large Lithuanian population of the neighborhood at the time. Although first run films ceased being shown at the theater in the 1950’s, it remained open until its closure in 1986 due to declining sales. Since the city took ownership of the land in 2001, various organizations have fought to save it, culminating in a new plan which recently cleared its City Council vote.
The plan will see it be meticulously restored by developer Revival Chicago LLC into a 1,800-person live music venue with a 5,000-square-foot brewery and 4,000-square-foot restaurant. City Council will need to approve the motion before fully being introduced by the state to the register. If approved the designation would imply that it could apply for various national grants and other funds for its restoration, but will need to follow more stringent restoration codes as well.