Oakley Theater

2320 W. Chicago Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60622

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Oakley Theater, September 1950

Opened in 1917, the Oakley Theater was located in what is today’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood.

The Oakley Theater was destroyed as a result of a gas line explosion and the resulting fire in the summer of 1953. It was later replaced by a supermarket which also was destroyed by a fire, in the mid-1970s. A fast food restaurant currently stands on the site.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

roadside57 on July 2, 2004 at 4:59 pm


The Oakley Theater was destroyed by a gas line explosion and fire in the early morning hours of August 31, 1953, as Chicago experienced one of the worst heat waves on record. Debris from the explosion rained down on the block bounded by Chicago Avenue, Oakley Blvd., Western Ave. and Rice Street. Because this occurred around 2 a.m., the only casualty was a shoemaker sleeping in the back of his shop on Chicago Avenue, who was killed when part of the Oakley fell through his roof.

When the sun rose on the 31st, only the theater facade and marquee were recognizable, with the front of the marquee resting in the gutter along Chicago Avenue for several days. The lot stood vacant until early 1957, when a new National supermarket was opened at 2320 W. Chicago. This store lasted until the mid-1970’s, when it was demolished and replaced by a Burger King which is still in operation.

I don’t know what theater building the Ukrainian Institute converted, but it definitely wasn’t the old Oakley.

Bill Wasik

Broan on September 30, 2004 at 2:01 am

If the above story is accurate, status should be changed to closed/demolished.

Adoresixtyfour on May 24, 2007 at 5:53 am

The National that stood on the site of the Oakley wasn’t merely “demolished”—it too burned down, just as its predecessor on that plot of land had in one of those spectacular blazes that everyone can see from miles away and that makes all the evening newscasts. After it was determined that the building was a total loss, it was torn down to make way for the Burger King.

Broan on October 6, 2007 at 4:19 pm

The Oakley Theater building was located at 2320-2328 W Chicago, with the theater entrance proper at 2324. The Ukranian Institute sits on the site; the National Food Store must have occupied the theater footprint as well as several parcels to the East (a former car dealer), which accounts for why Burger King’s address is 2344.

rclehmann on January 6, 2008 at 9:15 pm

As a child, I can remember visiting my Aunt and Grandmother who lived in a garden apartment at 2332 W. Superior St., in Chicago. This was almost exactly one block South of the Oakley. My 87 year old mother still speaks glowingly of the place, as it was the only entertainment and escape from the grinding poverty of the Great Depression. In 1953, it was still a neighborhood of horse carts, and electric buses. I would, on occasion, walk up to Chicago Avenue and look at the Oakley, literally blown to bits by the gas explosion. The facade and marquee were laying sadly on the sidewalk and for some reason, cleaning up the site took a long time.

The neighborhood is immaculately kept today by it’s Ukrainian residents, and is known in Chicago slang as Uketown.

R.C. Lehmann Born 2/27/49 in Chicago, IL

DavidZornig on November 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Not that this matters, but I’ve often heard Ukranian Village referred to as Uke-Ville, rather than Uketown.
Many young artists reside in the area. Until the expensive gentrification firmly takes hold. As it did in Wicker Park.

kencmcintyre on December 5, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Here is part of an article from the Montana Independent Record dated 8/31/53:

Explosion Rocks Chicago Area; One Man Killed

Chicago â€" (AP) â€" An explosion rocked a west side neighborhood early Monday, killing one man and demolishing a 1,000-seat movie theater. The dead man was identified as Joseph Lochansky, the owner of a shoe shop adjoining the Oakley Theater. Cause of the blast was unknown.

Sections of several buildings on both sides of the theater were blown apart. At least nine cars parked in garages and the alley behind the theater were damaged. The blast shattered numerous windows in surrounding apartment buildings. A rear wall and roof of the theater were blown off. No immediate damage estimate was made.

DLF on September 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Is RC Lehmann related to Genevieve Lehmann, currently residing in Elmhurst, IL? She has wonderful memories of living across the street from the Oakley (with her grandmother and aunt & uncle) during the Depression. I think she said it was $.05 or $.10 for a ticket back then.

Broan on January 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Here is a THSA photo of the Oakley’s clock marquee.

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