This weekend The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s hosted a citywide event that opened up some historic Chicago buildings for tours; theaters, restaurants, and apartment buildings all were available to see and hear about their history and importance. I made a special point to get to St. Augustine College, which was the site for the old Essanay Studios.
Essanay Studios was one of the biggest movie picture studios in the country in the early part of the 20th century. They were best known for launching the film careers of Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin and Gloria Swanson.
White City Cinema has a wonderful write-up of the secret world of Chicago’s film history that I suggest you read.
St. Augustine College is having a funding drive to restore parts of the building and to create a Charlie Chaplin auditorium in one of the large rooms that a hundred years ago his early films were created. The room feels historic. Their goal is save part of cinema history, create a museum, and offer a place for people to come to learn about and watch silent films.
Learn more about their fundraising drive here: St. Augustine College.
Also, I’m lucky enough to live in beautiful Ravenswood Manor on the Northside of Chicago, just about three miles from the old studio. Across the park from me is a huge mansion. It was built by Essanay Studios in order house stars who were in Chicago to film. It’s an amazing place and a couple of years ago was up for sale.
Here is the real estate tour of that property.