History

The Athenaeum Theatre opened in 1911 as part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.

Conceived as a “neighborhood playhouse,” by the original German-American parish, the Athenaeum Theatre is a historic building and the oldest continuously operating off-Loop theater in Chicago.

Athenaeum_FireThe building survived a devastating fire on Thanksgiving Day, November 27 of 1939.  It destroyed the second floor and the attic but did not reach the main auditorium.
Reconstruction was completed in 1940 and saw the addition of a full third floor to the building.


Over its long history, the Athenaeum has always been a center for the arts but also held a girls commercial High School run by the sisters of Notre Dame beginning in 1922 and continued through the 1970s.

It has also contained a bowling alley, billiard rooms, day care, credit union and the early home of notable Chicago theatre companies such as Lookingglass and Redmoon.

The 1990s saw the reimagining of the Athenaeum as a multi-stage performing arts center with the addition of several black box studio theaters, shared office space and rehearsal rooms for performing arts groups.

Since 2011 Athenaeum Theatre Productions (ATP) has managed the 66,000 sqf building.  Today it provides affordable space for the arts, educational, and social service communities. The building houses four performance spaces, offices for 14 not for profit performing arts groups, rehearsal rooms, as well as a gymnasium and the Lakeview food pantry.

The theatre serves as a cultural resource and a forum for arts groups and audiences both in the neighborhood and the greater Chicago area. In the 2014/2015 Season The Athenaeum has provided space for 158 different arts groups presenting 143 productions of theatre, dance, music and more!

AthenaumThe Athenaeum Theatre has a main stage theatre which seats 984 people and three studio theatres seating 67, 81 and 89 people. The Curtain Call Club serves as a reception room for 55 people for cabaret, comedy improv, lectures and other intimate events. All public spaces are available for rent.

For more information on our history, check out our YouTube video.