Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Logan Returns

Nostalgia: the fond remembrance of that which was and is no more.


Memory is a funny thing. It's not perfectly accurate. In fact, it can often be straight up fabrication. Gather a hundred witnesses of an event and it's plausible that each witnessed something different. It is a significant challenge to remember truthfully, and to plan on remembering truthfully by walking through each day observing the world objectively. And it's even harder to bring objectivity to memories once they've been stored away.

My life in Chicago has gone through many evolutions. Transitioning from North Dakota, living in a dorm, cycling through roommates and part-time jobs, dating, finally finding a church home, beginning married life with my sweet bride - the list could go on and on - every turn of events has shaped the way I relate to this city.

A handful of places and persons have become themes through this season of life. One of them is Logan Square.

The Blue line runs through Logan Square and ties downtown Chicago to the Southwest and Northwest neighborhoods of the city and eventually takes its passengers to O'hare airport. Riding the Blue Line in the winter of my first year of school I discovered coffee shops that were off the beaten path so often trod by my peers. Throughout school, Logan Square was the neighborhood of several friends' apartments. Visiting them I was introduced to the vintage Chicago three-flat: awkwardly shaped rooms, cramped staircases, mini-yards, limited insulation, and naturally, no AC.

The real gem, however, was the Logan Theatre. Few would have called it a gem a year ago, but during college it was a fantastic $4 second-run movie theatre. Well, again, take fantastic with a grain of salt. Sticky floors, seats that threatened your seat with pokey springs, questionable concessions, etc., etc. Key selling points: Off campus, $4.

After school, when we had our first apartment in Logan Square, we fell even more in love with the boulevard, the old homes, the renaissance of the Milwaukee Ave corridor, and of course, the Logan Theatre.

For the last seven or eight months or so, however, the Logan Theatre was boarded up. Supposedly closed for renovation. I was skeptical. Too many businesses had fallen to the bad economy. But a few months ago I learned that the Logan would emerge from the ashes. Under new ownership and with new money the Logan was being restored to its roots.

Having opened in 1915, the Logan was built in the fashion of the grand theaters of the day and held four large theaters. Later the four theaters were chopped into four smaller ones. Under the same family's ownership since 1922, the purchase last year was a significant passing of the torch. The new owner has begun his leg of the race well.

I wish I had pictures of it before the renovation. New AMC's are a dime a dozen. If you've been to one, you've been to them all. The Logan is different.

Polished marble walls, art deco designs on the ceiling, original stained glass above the ticket window and entrance, rich carpeting, restored period drinking fountains and bathroom fixtures, all encouraging you to pause and remember that there was a time when viewing a film was an event. Walking through the restored Logan Theatre one half expects an experience on the order of Annie when Daddy Warbucks takes her to the movies.

I am not nostalgic for the Logan as it used to be, but I am grateful that it has returned to its roots.

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