The Portage Theater (4050 N. Milwaukee) opened in 1920. Like many movie palaces, it fell on hard times, and closed in the early 2000s. However, it was renovated and reopened in 2006, its future seemingly assured – until a Chicago megachurch decided to attempt to buy and convert the entire building to religious use. It seems that their plan faces stiff opposition from the community; let’s hope they find another, more appropriate home, one that won’t diminish this neighborhood landmark’s architectural integrity or deaden the streetscape by obliterating small-scale commercial uses and crowds on days other than Sunday.
With so many disused historic buildings under threat lately, it’s disheartening to see a vibrant neighborhood anchor like this come under the attack of marauding philistines, be they members of whatever religion or sect. Their plans involve dismantling the marquee and converting a large volume of the attached residential and commercial building into church space, as well as no doubt “modernizing” the auditorium itself for megachurch worship.
The building, despite its recent restoration, is not in perfect shape. It could use additional work – but not a wholesale dismantlement and erasure of its use as a theater! The neighborhood deserves better, a point on which, at least for the moment, there appears to be a wide consensus. Here’s hoping it holds!