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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown’s Iconic Aragon Ballroom Sign Is Getting Some TLC

The upgrades are minor and follow the rules laid out by the city's historic landmark designation.

On Friday, crews could be seen giving the Aragon Ballroom sign a fresh coat of paint.
Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — The iconic Aragon Ballroom sign in Uptown is getting a makeover. 

Crews were seen installing new light bulbs and giving the sign, which hangs from the theater at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave., a fresh coat of paint last week. The old black paint was previously chipping away. 

When asked about the project, a representative for theater owner Live Nation declined to comment. Ald. James Cappleman’s office 46th Ward office also declined to comment.

The front facade of the Aragon Ballroom became a historic landmark just years ago, according to Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. Any changes made to the sign would need to fit certain standards in order to remain as close to the original as possible, he said.

“If you look at the earliest pictures of the sign, it looks like it has had some modifications over time,” he said. 

Preservation Chicago, Uptown United, the Uptown Historical Society and others worked hard to designate much of Uptown’s entertainment district a historic landmark, Miller said.

In 2016, more than 50 buildings in Uptown all received the historic landmark designation, including the Aragon Ballroom. The Green Mill, The Riviera, The Uptown Theatre and the Uptown Post Office on Broadway also received the designation.

“It’s amazing that many of the most historic buildings in Uptown are protected now,” Miller said. “We really pushed for this and now many of the most important features can be preserved.”

Whoever is completing the restoration work will need to pay special attention to the sign’s details including the color, lettering, typeface and possibly even the type of paint used, Miller said.

Sometimes landmarked signs need to be replaced entirely, as was the case with the famous Chicago Theatre. If that ever happens at the Aragon Ballroom, a replacement would have to be as similar to the original as possible. 

“We want to keep the spirit and feeling of the original look if possible,” he said. 

Uptown was a film hub in the 1930s, but fell upon hard economic times in the 60s and 70s.

“When Uptown lost some of its luster,” the name of the Aragon Ballroom was changed to “The Cheetah Club,” Miller said.

Credit: John Chuckman/Pintrest
For two years, the Aragon Ballroom changed its name to The Cheetah.

The club hosted disco and rollerskating, but in 1968 the club returned to its original name.

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