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Uptown in the News  

April 9, 2003
Inside Online
The end of the Rainbo?

Slated for demolition is the Rainbo Gardens Building, 4812-36 N. Clark St., designed by architect William C. Wright and built in 1928. The building was rated "OR" (Possessing architectural and/or historical significance) in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. Host to a variety of amusements and some of the early 20th century's best-known celebrities, Rainbo Gardens has long been one of Chicago's premier recreation and entertainment venues.

As early as 1894, the site was occupied by a small roadside restaurant. Later, it was the site of one of the city's most frequented summer beer gardens and picnic groves, popular prior to the days of air conditioning. Shortly after the end of the First World War, Chicago restaurateurs Fred and Al Mann bought the building and changed the name of the place to Rainbo Gardens. In 1927/1928, the outdoor gardens were converted into an indoor sports arena, first hosting jai alai and later wrestling.

In 1957 an ice skating rink was installed and since then roller skating and rock concerts have been its main attractions. In the recent past the building hosted such acts as the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, REO Speedwagon and Led Zeppelin, in the "Electric Theater" and the "Kinetic Playground." Today many would recognize this distinctive building, with its ornate details, for its most recent incarnation, the neighborhood roller rink.

In the early 1990s the building was proposed to house a Social Security Administration office; this plan was dropped when Congressman Dan Rostenkowski requested and received $4 million from Congress to construct a new building at 2127 W. Lawrence Ave.

A demolition permit was approved in January 2003 and the last event held in the building was on March 30. The demolition permit was issued days prior to the passing of the city's new ordinance requiring a 90-day demo permit delay for buildings listed in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey (CHRS), and the building will most likely be demolished as soon as possible, unless citizens succeed in persuading Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) and Planning Commissioner Alicia Mazur Berg to persuade the developers to reuse the building—or at least the façade—in its new development.

The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois has already sent letters to the Commissioner and Alderman. Those who believe that razing the Rainbo will destroy the community's local character can write: Ald. Helen Shiller, 1138 W. Montrose Ave. (60613); phone: (312) 744-6831; fax: (312) 744-1509; email: ward46@ci.chi.il.us. They can also write: Alicia Mazur Berg, Commissioner, Department of Planning and Development, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 1000 (60602); phone: (312) 744-4190; fax: (312) 744-2271.

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