Dearborn Theatre

115-117 Dearborn Street / Chicago, Il


This undated photo from Chicago History Museum clearly shows the "Minstrels" sign.

(original photographer: John Carbutt)


Chicago Historical Society Timeline: Chicago in 1871

Wednesday, February 8, 1871:

"Opera lovers brave a storm to pack a performance of Beethovenís Fidelio. Meanwhile, the famed (and famously temperamental) Czech actress Fanny Janauschek wins raves for her lead role in Schillerís Mary Stuart at McVickerís Theatre, where she is also playing Lady Macbeth. Other highlights of the Chicago stage include The Trip Around the World, now in its fourth week at the Dearborn Theatre, which is reportedly a record run for a minstrel show in the city.



- Dearborn Theatre, c.1890 -

from Chicago: its history and its builders by Josiah Seymour Currey (1922):

"A variety theatre was opened in Chicago in 1863, but its success was not like that of the vaudeville houses of the present day; in 1869 it was taken over by Frank E. Aiken and changed into a "first-class place of amusement" (an adequate comment on the feeling then prevailing toward a variety show). In a few months it becamme the Dearborn Theatre, under new management, which survived until the general ruin of 1891."


- 1899 poster -


clippings courtesy of the Chicago City Library:


- February 11, 1900 -


- September 14, 1902 -


Greater Than King; a romantic play in four acts ... as presented at the Dearborn theatre Chicago ... 1901.
          Author: Henry Raeder Publisher: [Chicago, F.T. Peterson Company, 1901]


from American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle by By Gerald Bordman, Gerald Martin Bordman, Richard Norton:

"Guy Steely and Fredrick Chaplin, who, along with Richard Carle, had given Chicago The Storks in 1902, had another musical ready there on 4 July at the Dearborn Theare. Benjamin Barclay, the breakfast-cereal tycoon from Battle Ax, Michigan (the great Kellogg interests were centered at Battle Creek), takes his niece, Dorothy Fairfax on a voyage to the Forbidden Land of Tibet. A handsome young Englishman, Tom Wilkinson, accompanies the. Their party is taken prisoner and told it will be released only if Wilkensen cosents to marry Mina Doma, daughter of the Tibetan potentate. Kinkaboo, executive head of the Amalgamated Association of Asiatic Robbers, smuggles a machine into prison. The sontraption allows the prisoners to escape. Shortly after the musical opened, the lead article in the theatre section of the Chicago Tribune noted a marked decline in the quality of "light opera," blaming this decline on the rise of the comedian and the sccarcity of good singers. The article failed to nitice the local tradition of musical comedy that was evolving to replace the waning comic opera."


from cinematreasures.org (Sandburg Theatre):

1204 N. Dearborn Street,Chicago, IL 60610
Opened in 1913 as the New Dearborn Theatre, later just the Dearborn Theatre, this theater stood at the corner of Division Street and Dearborn Street. Originally, the theaterís main entrance was on Division Street (40 W. Division), but was later moved to Dearborn Street.

The Dearborn Theatre was remodeled in 1934 by the firm of Pereira & Pereira. By the 1940ís, the Dearborn Theatre was known as the Surf Theatre. In September 1964, the Surf Theatre closed and was reopened later the same month as the Playboy Theater, which was originally known for screening eclectic and offbeat films. It also was one of the venues which hosted the Chicago International Film Festival during its early years.

In 1976, the Playboy Theater was renamed the Chelex Theatre, and in 1979, the theater was renamed one final time, as the Sandburg Theatre, which screened repertory films. The Sandburg Theatre lasted until April 1983, when it was closed.

A Walgreens was later built on the site of the theater.


Programs available from this theatre:

  • Manning's Minstrels (1870)


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