Central Park Theater
Rapp & Rapp, 1917
The Central Park Theater has been the centerpiece of the arts and culture of North Lawndale since it opened its doors in 1917. One of the most historically significant movie palaces in the United States, the theater is one of the first of its kind and became a model for buildings of its type which followed. The Central Park Theater marked the beginning of a prolific partnership between cinema developers Balaban & Katz and the architectural firm Rapp & Rapp, a collaboration which gave rise to numerous landmarks including the Chicago, Oriental (now Nederlander), Riviera, and Uptown theaters. In addition to its architectural splendor, the theater was one of the first in the nation to be air-conditioned. With nearly 1,800 seats, the Central Park remained a profitable theater for decades. In 1971, it became home to the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ. Under the leadership of Pastor Lincoln Scott and his successor, Pastor Robert Marshall, the theater served as a place of worship and community concerts hosting notable acts like Shirley Caesar, Mighty Clouds of Joy, and other gospel and secular greats. Today, despite its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the building's future is uncertain. In 2020, a coalition of interdisciplinary partners joined in collaboration with the church to plan for a sustainable restoration and redevelopment of the theater to serve the North Lawndale community. Currently, a planning process is underway to seek funds to address deferred maintenance and restoration priorities, while continuing ongoing community engagement.