Portage Theater: 2024 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois


4050 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, Cook County

Year built



Lindley P. Rowe in association with Fridstein & Co.

Current owner

Manuel Gliksberg

(Photo credit: Landmarks Illinois)

Why is this place important?

A designated Chicago landmark, the Portage Theater (previously Portage Park Theatre) was built in 1920 by real estate speculators J.M. and Edward Browarsky. The Ascher Brothers, one of Chicago’s largest movie theater owners during the 1920s, leased and operated the building. Although the Ascher Brothers exited the theater business in 1929, the Portage Theater stayed open under various operators for decades and was an important cultural institution for the surrounding Northwest Side neighborhood. It remains a visual landmark on North Milwaukee Avenue near Portage Park’s “Six Corners” commercial area. Architecturally, it is noteworthy for its elaborate Art Moderne and Neoclassical interiors and its cream-colored exterior terra cotta.


Today, the Portage Theater suffers from deferred maintenance after years of disinvestment and vacancy.  After 80 years of operation, the theater closed in 2001. It was rehabilitated and reopened in 2006, operating successfully for six years. Since 2012, the theater has opened sporadically but has been officially shuttered since 2018, the same year that it was acquired by the current owner. The owner has shown an interest in improving the theater and has applied for several grants to help fund necessary work, but none have been successful.  The long-term vision and plan for the local landmark remain unclear.


A rehabilitated Portage Theater has the potential to be an economic and cultural anchor for the Six Corners area again. Rehabilitation is a logical next step following recent investment in the neighborhood, which has included the openings of Target and Aldi stores. The current owner would like to reopen the landmark theater but needs support to assemble the finances and vision to do so. As a City of Chicago designated landmark, the Portage Theater is eligible to apply for the Cook County Class L Property Tax Incentive and Adopt-a-Landmark funding through the City of Chicago. Pursuing a listing in the National Register of Historic Places could also make the theater eligible for other historic preservation tax incentive programs.


Contact the Six Corners Association with offers of support.


(Photo credit: Landmarks Illinois)

Amie Zander

Managing Director of the Six Corners Association

“Restoring the historic Portage Theater would be the icing on the cake amid a real estate resurgence at Six Corners. The theater served as an entertainment hub for the Northwest Side, and with proper renovations, could be reactivated to serve the community and boost the local economy.”


(Photo credit: Landmarks Illinois)

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