The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Chicago's first opera

On this day in 1850, Chicago had its first (sort-of) professional opera performance. It wasn't exactly up to the Lyric's standards:

In New York, P.T. Barnum was paying Jenny Lind—“The Swedish Nightingale”—$1,000 a night to perform. Chicago’s first opera didn’t have Jenny Lind. But the local promoters were crafty enough to choose one of her biggest hits for their first show, at Rice’s Theatre. The opera was Bellini’s La Sonnambula.

Four singers are not enough for an opera. So the Chicago cast was filled out with local amateurs. A few of them had good voices, most of them didn’t. Rehearsals were—I think “confused” is a good word to describe them.

Just like in one of those bad old Hollywood movies, the show had problems. The audience kept applauding at the wrong time—whenever one of the hometown amateurs showed up on stage, his friends in the audience would stand up and cheer. Meanwhile, one of the extras named J.H. McVicker sang so loudly he drowned out everybody else.

It helps to remember that 18 years after the city's founding, it more resembled a frontier town than the international metropolis it became in the 20th century. Still, it sounds like a fun show.

And then the theater burned down the next day...

Too many things in my inbox

I probably won't have time to read all of these things over lunch:

Share that last one with your non-technical friends. It's pretty clever.

Chicago's last Sears closing tomorrow

I despise Eddie Lampert. The harm he has caused Sears and the people who work for the company should be criminal. But he's going to continue to get rich driving it into the ground selling the real estate from its carcass.

Tomorrow, the last store in the company's home town will close, just shy of its 80th anniversary:

The Six Corners store, on the edge of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood, will shut its doors for the last time Sunday, two months shy of its 80th anniversary. The closure is part of Sears effort to turn around its business after years of losses and declining sales, but when the store rings up its final sale, the city will lose one more link to a hometown company that used to be the world’s largest retailer.

Plans to redevelop the site already have been announced, but neighbors have seen a redevelopment across the street drag on. They’re waiting to see whether Six Corners, at the intersection of Milwaukee and Cicero avenues and Irving Park Road, can regain its status as a bustling retail district.

Highland Park-based Tucker Development and Seritage Growth Properties announced in May that they were partnering to redevelop the Six Corners Sears and another in the Galewood neighborhood that closed last year. Both stores were among the more than 250 properties Sears sold to Seritage, a real estate investment trust, when it was spun off in 2015. Sears CEO Edward Lampert is an investor in Seritage and chairman of its board.

I hope Lampert gets careless, gets caught, and gets thrown in jail. But so far he hasn't done anything illegal, just immoral.

Rauner confident; should Pritzker worry?

Greg Hinz reports that Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's internal polling numbers suggest his re-election race is a lot closer than the rest of the state believes:

The message came in an exclusive interview with Rauner campaign manager Betsy Ankney in which she claimed the incumbent has pulled within single digits of Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in internal campaign polls, and promised to empty a "very full" book of opposition research on him.

 "In our focus groups, people can't cite a single positive thing about Pritzker even after he's spent $80 million" on TV ads, Ankney said. That's why, when Rauner in the spring spent "$4 million over six weeks" running ads tying Pritzker to imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, "his positive rating dropped 20 (percentage) points."

Ankney declined to release the latest results from her campaign's pollster, Dave Sackett. But said Rauner has pulled "closer than any public poll indicates." The closest poll that I'm aware of came a couple of weeks ago from We Ask America for Capital Fax. It showed Pritzker ahead just 36 percent to 27 percent, a nine-point margin. (Pritzker hasn't released his poll figures either, but it's believed they show him much further ahead.)

I'm not yet worried, because Rauner remains unusually unpopular for a governor (though he's still polling better than Rod Blagojevich's 9%). But I am curious how the polls can all be so different.

Morning links

I didn't have a chance to read these yesterday:

Now I'm off to work. The heat wave of the last few days has finally broken!

Slow start to the month

I'll have an update to the semi-annual Chicago Sunrise Chart later this week, but otherwise not a lot to post about. Or, anyway, that I want to post about.

At least the weather cooled off. We finished June hot and sticky but yesterday a cold front brought delightful summer weather to the city. It's predicted to last about another four minutes.

Uptown Theater to reopen...someday

The Uptown Theater in Chicago will reopen in a few years after developers raised $75m for renovations:

The theater, a Spanish Baroque Revival dazzler designed by the kings of movie palace architecture, C.W. and George L. Rapp, is an emblem of Uptown’s lost glamour. Graffiti mars its exterior. Near the top of its bright red marquee, some of the script letters that spelled out the names of its developers, the theater chain owners Balaban & Katz, are missing, like gaps in a row of teeth.

Little is known at this point about the plans of the new developer, Chicago-based Farpoint Development, which is said to have cobbled together $75 million in public and private funds to revive the theater, located at 4816 N. Broadway.

If the Uptown really does wind up being reborn, it will mark a major change from 1961, which witnessed the destruction of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater, a masterpiece of the first Chicago School of Architecture, and its replacement by a parking garage. Along with the demolition of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building in the early 1970s, that traumatic event helped lead to the creation of today’s strong preservation movement in Chicago and the Uptown’s bright new prospects.

Uptown, like Logan Square, has been "the next hot neighborhood" for about 20 years. I'm hopeful that the Uptown Theater will reopen soon, and revitalize the Broadway corridor once again.