Chaplin Career Launcher Essanay Studios Hosts Gala Event and Preservation Plan, 10/6

October 6
12:30 AM 2012


St. Augustine College in Chicago, Illinois, has announced that it is hosting a gala evening with a reception, dinner and dancing, today, October 6, 2012, at which a "historic structures report/preservation and reuse plan" will be unveiled for its historic Essanay Studios buildings. These two structures, at 1333 and 1345 W. Argyle Street in Chicago, housed an early, influential motion picture studio from 1907-1917, and represent an important part of the history of the film industry in the United States.

St. Augustine College is undertaking the restoration, renovation and reuse of portions of the St. Augustine College campus, formerly home of Essanay Studios. Essanay Studios, 1333 -1345 West Argyle Street, was designated a Chicago Landmark by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on March 26th, 1996, and acknowledged as the most important structure connected to the city’s role in the history of motion pictures.

Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery, Gloria Swason, Francis X. Bushman, "Bronco Billy" Anderson and Louella Parsons are among the Hollywood names who got their start at Chicago's Essanay Studios in the years before the First World War. And now, St. Augustine College, which has owned the buildings since 1980, has plans to revamp the older building and restore architectural details on both. Plans may include historical exhibits, a community center and a space for public performances.

The gala evening will take place in the historic structures and former production spaces of Essanay Studios, and will include a presentation on the history of Essanay Studios by David Kiehn, film historian, from the Essanay Niles Silent Film Museum (Niles, California) and an overview of the 150-page historic structures report by Johnson Lasky Architects, according to the College.

The main objective of this initiative is focused on the redevelopment of the Charlie Chaplin auditorium, a former film production space and adjacent areas as a multipurpose event space that ties into the other spaces in the College.

Key areas of this initiative include:

- The 1345 West Argyle building: exterior: a determination of existing condition of the terra cotta entrance the development of a plan for repair and maintenance, and treatment recommendations that preserve the integrity of the entrance.

- The 1333 West Argyle 2-story structure: both interior and exterior: an architectural evaluation for character defining features, a determination of existing condition of the buildings structures, development of a plan for repair and maintenance, treatment recommendations that preserve the integrity of the building.

- The 1333 West Argyle 2-story structure: the development of renderings based upon the recommended architectural reuse and reconfiguration to meet the uses based on the programming of the building and including estimated cost projections to complete these improvements.

- The 1333-1345 West Argyle sidewalk and public spaces: repairs to the sidewalk, landscaping, and lighting.

The gala begins at 5:30 pm on October 6th, and will last until 10:30 pm, including a reception, fine dining of period food prepared by Chef Rafael Perez, and dancing to the music of the Alan Gresik Swing Shift Orchestra. Attire for the evening is Black Tie, dress of the time period of 1907-1917, or as an Essanay character.

Tickets to the fund-raising event are $175 each. For information, contact Grace Valadez, at 773-878-7044 or 

Here are some websites with further information:

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as a performer, teacher and writer is centered at Paul W. Thompson Music, located in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building, where he teaches the great songs of Broadway to the next generation of musical theater performers. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Paul was raised in a family of professional musicians and teachers, steeped in classical, gospel, country, pop, sacred and show music. Dubbed a “thin, winsome lad” at the age of 13 by a critic for the Nashville Banner, he earned two degrees in musical theater (a B.F.A. with Honors from Baylor University and an M.M. from the University of Miami, Florida), plus an M.B.A. with Distinction from DePaul University. Paul’s memberships include Actors’ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (proud voter for the Grammy Awards!), the National Association of Teachers of Singing and New York’s Drama League.

Moving easily between the worlds of classical music, religious music, classic pop and musical theater, Paul has appeared onstage or in the orchestra pit in concerts, musicals, operettas and operas in 30 states and in Europe, in a career spanning more than 35 years. His Chicagoland stage credits include “Forever Plaid” at the Royal George Theater and twenty mainstage productions at Light Opera Works. Paul joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 1995 (he was Tenor I Section Leader for four years and sings on two Grammy-winning recordings), and is one of Chicago’s foremost liturgical singers, marking 20 years as a member of the choir at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal) in 2011.He has composed and arranged a number of anthems, hymns and songs for worship and concert use, and collaborates on the creation of new works of musical theater. Paul can be found on Monday nights watching showtune videos at the world-famous Sidetrack nightclub, the inspiration for his weekly column, “The Showtune Mosh Pit.” His proudest achievement is that he has seen the original Broadway production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical since “Cats.” No, really. Since “Cats!”


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