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Edgewater’s Most Curious Places: 5801 N. Glenwood

Exterior. Credit: Lyle Bright

Exterior. Credit: Lyle Bright

Our next curious building at 5801 N. Glenwood (also known as 5755 N. Ridge) was suggested by Jeane Dufrense and Marko Zaric.

I should start by saying that, contrary to popular opinion, this structure most likely wasn’t built as a theater, let alone one for Charlie Chaplin, as persistent rumors claim. While it’s true that Chaplin lived and worked on the border between Uptown and Edgewater, he had moved to Los Angeles by 1916, and this building wasn’t built until the early 1920s.

Instead, the Spanish Mission Revival Style structure was probably a car showroom, complete with an industrial elevator. The first commercial business using its space was Glenwood Motor Sales Company, which was a showroom for the Dort Touring Car and, a few years later, Oldsmobiles.

Glenwood then quickly went out of business sometime before or around the beginning of the Great Depression. The building at 5801 remained empty for several years before becoming a variety of garages and auto fix-it shops. It slowly decayed until 2007.

Custom made trusses. Credit: Lyle Bright

Custom made trusses. Credit: Lyle Bright

Local sculptor Rosario Rosi saw its potential and started fixing it up to be a studio and community art center. Sadly, the building had deteriorated too much to save the Spanish-style stucco exterior, but Rosi managed to renovate the stone columns in front as well as much of the shape of the inside. Its structural trusses are one of the best examples of how Rosi was able to meld both architectural history with his artistic abilities. The trusses were rotting and needed to be replaced, so he hand-created new ones to match the shape and feel of the originals.

Sadly, another financial crisis – this time the Great Recession – affected the project and Rosi ran out of money. The building is now owned by realtor Kiki Stamelos and, should you be looking for a fun way to spend a lot of money and honor history, it’s available for $6,000 a month per floor.

So where did the Charlie Chaplin rumor come from? It seems to have started for a few reasons. One is simply Chaplin’s history in the neighborhood. Another is that, to our modern eyes, the building seems overly ornate to be a car shop – although notably there are a lot of very fancy car buildings in the far north side including the Capital Garage I discussed in my last curious places story. Finally – and possibly most importantly – the area featured several memorable movie theaters, most of which were demolished over the years.

Ex-ridge theatreOne particular movie house called the Ridge Theater was located only a few blocks away; it’s now part of Clark-Devon Hardware. It seems likely that these factors together lead people to incorrectly remember 5801 Glenwood as a movie theater, and then as one built for Chaplin.

Big thanks to this Curbed Chicago article for making me aware of the Ridge Theater specifically.  Should you be interested in comparing the exteriors of Edgewater auto showrooms to theaters, there are some pictures up on my blog.


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