3826 West Madison Street
Architects: Postle & Mahler
The Hamlin Theater, located on the north side of Madison Street just west of Hamlin Boulevard, opened in late October 1910. Built by the Hopkinson Amusement Company, the theater had a seating capacity of 1,200 and cost approximately $75,000 to build. The theater was named after nearby Hamlin Boulevard, but may also have evoked memories among some Chicagoans of a famous nineteenth-century Loop theater known as Hamlin’s Theater, which was renamed the Grand Opera House in 1880.
The new Hamlin Theater originally operated as a vaudeville house. However, by 1914, the theater’s main attraction was motion pictures. To attract customers, advertisements during the 1910s touted the theater as being “In a Class by Itself.” In 1925, the Hopkinson Amusement Company, perhaps fearing increased competition from the planned Paradise and Marbro Theaters, sold the Hamlin to a new owner, Harry Lutz, for $130,000.
Despite the increased competition posed by the Marbro and Paradise Theaters, the Hamlin survived the lean years of the Great Depression. During the spring of 1938, the Hamlin’s owner made extensive renovations to the theater’s interior and exterior. On 25 May 1938, the modernized theater reopened as the Alex Theater.
Sources: Chicago Tribune, 7 Aug 1910, 20; 13 Feb 1914, 7; 25 Nov 1918, 19; 12 June 1925, 18; 22 May 1938, W2; Variety, 29 Oct 1910, 21.