Although largely forgotten, this modest commercial building has multiple
layers of significance for Chicago's African-American community. Completed
in 1912 as a movie theater with accompanying office retail space, it is
one of the rare survivors of the city's famous Bronzeville-Black
Metropolis business district. It is the only surviving theater from the
heyday of Chicago's black entertainment district which thrived along 35th
Street in the jazz era of the 1910s and 20s.
Many notable musicians
conducted the Pickford's in-house band, and the theater was also the
showcase for early silent movie dramas produced by pioneering black
filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. In the late 1960s, the theater became the home
of The South Side Center for the Performing Arts, led by noted black
playwright Theodore Ward. Now vacant, the building is owned by the City of
Chicago, which is seeking development proposals. A nearby school has
expressed its desire to demolish the building for a new facility.