Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Legacy of Chicago's Film Industry found at St. Ben's Lofts

We have a cool listing in the St. Ben's lofts and recently discovered the interesting past of this Chicago Film Studio landmark.

This building was part of a silent film production company owned by William Nicholas Selig know as the “Colonel" and Andrew Schustek who was a machinist and model maker. The Colonel found his calling in the world of vaudeville and sideshows and Schustek created a set of plans for building a motion picture recording and projections machine. Serendipity ensued and the two found a film studio called The Selig Plyscope Company.

You will notice the “S" for Selig above the entryway door. The Selig Western Avenue studios opened in 1907 and included both indoor and outdoor facilities, encompassing the area surrounded by Western Avenue, Irving Park Road, Claremont Avenue and Byron Street. Selig developed into a genuine movie mogul. Our location billed itself as “the biggest motion picture plant in the country… with the largest skylight of any west of the Hudson River."


Bob said...

Dear Mr. Darrow,

I came across your listing while doing a Google search on my great-great uncle W.N. Selig. I think he would like what the renovators have done with the place. I've been to the site several times over the last few years and have always wondered what it looked like on the inside. Have you ever seen what the strucure looked like when built in 1911? The original glass studio was built in 1907, on the site of the used car lot. Those buildings were also part of the studio complex. I have some photos scanned if your interested in seeing the building with its original vaulted glass roof.

I also have some articles which describe many state-of-the-art innovations that building had, including air conditioning and wardrobe rooms for the actors. You're probably aware there is a network of tunnels beneath those buildings, though I believe the one connected to the studio building has been sealed. Probably a good idea!

There is a book on Selig in the works, one of the times I visited the site was with its author, Sally Dumaux. Sadly, Sally passed away last December, but two of her friends have vowed to complete her work. Hopefully, one day the history of your building and the life of W.N. Selig will not be such a mystery. He was the first producer to open a studio in L.A., and is responsible for many landmark events in cinema.


Jeff Look