Theater on the Lake offers the most breathtaking view of Lake Michigan. Post 1996, Chicago theater began hosting theater groups to showcase their best work from the previous year. Theater companies from all over the world are celebrated in the eight mainstage plays spaced over 8 weeks.
A rich History
Originally built as the Chicago Daily News Fresh Air Fund Sanitarium in 1920, the theater was preceded by two successful floating hospitals built on the pier in Lincoln Park. It was then believed that the breeze escaping through the wooden stills had the healing power to cure babies infected with tuberculosis. Funding for a more stable construction was made available in 1913 donated by Chicago Daily News which led to the erecting of Prairie styled impressive design from Dwighth H. Perkins from Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton firm. Apart from designing the theater, Perkins a strong social reformer, brought structures like Cafe Brauer, North Pond Cafe and Lion House in the Lincoln Park Zoo, to life.
Building of Chicago Daily News Fresh Air Sanitarium was constructed with brick and steel arched pavilion to accommodate 250 baby basket cribs, rooms for older children and nursery.
Till the summer of 1939, this establishment provided free lunch, milk and health services to over 30,000 children. Reconstruction drive on Lakes Shore Drive demolished the front entrance of the building. World War II named the space as the official center for recreation for USO (United Service Organization). Finally in 1953, Park District of Chicago converted this space as the Theater.
Blueprint of Modernization
Lakefront hospitality Group cut a decade long deal with Park District Board of Chicago to renovate, redesign and handle the theater, restaurant and event space. Lease also includes the right to operate concessions between Diversey Park and South of Fullerton.
Face of the building will remain untouched to maintain the open-air feel of the original structure. Design for restoration is by Kaufman & O’Niel and includes replacing screen sections with modern glass windows overlooking the river, new cement flooring with minute detailing with terracotta tiles and wrought iron details to the new bar. Main theater space will be retained for summer showcase while the adjacent spaces will be rented out for private events like weddings. New addition will be a casual fine dine restaurant. Outdoor patio seating and restrooms, open to the public, will also be added.
Inside the theater space, new lights, sound and dressing rooms will be added. Expansion of the theater was included in the $32 million shoreline restoration project for addition of special lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, replacement of seawall and 6 acers of parkland.
Terms of agreement
Investment from Lakefront Hospitality will be used partially towards rent payment to Park District and majorly towards rebuilding the building, itself. Post the termination of the 10 year lease, the company can exercise extensions for a year, a total of 5times.
Since May 2017, construction is going on in full swing. Regular programs are not set for release till 2018 but the patio will be open to the public from late summer.
CEO and Chicago Park District Superintendent, Michael Kelly said in the release that through the improvements to Theater on the lake there would be a dramatic heightening in the amazing production quality of such a unique performance space and the capacity to offer world class professional theater to eager patrons all year long from a single location was finally being made possible. The building in the past has been used as Halloween Haunted house. Theater performances moved out of the park, recently, into other neighborhood parks as a part of Night Out in the Parks program.