Bertha Theatre

4717 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60625

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Essaness Theaters Corp., Gumbiner Bros.

Architects: Adolph Proskauer

Firms: Grossman & Proskauer

Functions: Housing, Martial Arts School, Retail

Nearby Theaters

Bertha Theatre

Located in the heart of the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago at Lincoln Avenue and Giddings Street, the Bertha opened in 1914 in the Lasker Building, and sat a little over 600.

The Sullivanesque-style theater originally was built for the Gumbiner Brothers circuit, and designed by the firm of Grossman & Proskauer. The Bertha Theatre closed in 1951.

Today, the former theater building today houses residential space as well as a martial arts academy and other businesses. It is located not far from the historic (and still-operating) Davis Theatre, also on Lincoln Avenue.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

DavidZornig on November 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Had no idea this building ever housed a theatre. Participated in several car shows over the years, right out in front. As part of an annual street fair. Though they stopped the car show portion a few years back. Probably cause it took up all the parking. Couldn’t get an answer out of anyone.

Shot a piece about Martial Arts Master Degerberg when his studio was located down the block to the South. But same building I think. His space was two stories and had an industrial looking ceiling.
The German-American Fest is still a yearly event at the South end of Lincoln.

KenC on December 7, 2008 at 11:59 pm

On the second floor of Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, Fred Degerberg has his office in what was once the projection booth of the Bertha. It faces north; across the workout area and the boxing ring is the speed bag room. This is where the screen was. On the first floor of the school, there is a weight and cardio room; beyond that is another padded area for martial arts classes. This area was the auditorium. Looking at the ornate ceiling and parts of the locker room and speed bag room, you can tell this was once a theatre.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Looks like a respectable training facility. All in all not a bad reuse.

KenC on December 22, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Re: the photos ken mc posted- in “Second floor at Lincoln Avenue”,look closely at the wall in the background. You will see a big square which looks like a mirror (it is, in fact, a 2 way mirror). It looks like two blue kicking shields are hanging on either side of the mirror. On the other side of this mirror is Mr. Degerberg’s office- aka the projection room of the Bertha theatre. A few feet to the left you will see some steps- up the steps to the right is the office door; to the left is a very narrow staircase leading to the first floor (the auditorium). Patrons watching movies at the Bertha faced north-toward Lawrence Ave.

DavidZornig on December 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for the description of the layout. I initially thought Mr. Degerberg’s rear office wall, (directly behind his desk), faced Lincoln Ave., but with no windows that faced out. I do remember the two-way glass overlooking the workout area.

When we showed up to tape there, we went up the stairs from the 1st floor, then I thought turned back towards Lincoln into his office/the former projection booth.
It was rather small, for such a larger than life figure.
When he took us out of his office to give us a tour, I thought we were then facing East, towards the blue mats. I guess I got turned around if his office actually faces North. So the screen would have faced South then, or West? I guess I have no bearings on what space encompasses the former auditorium.

I do not recall the boxing ring being in place as of yet then, just mats. It was 2003 or 2004 now that I think about it.

His office was filled with pictures and vintage armory of sorts. Flourescent lighting, but maybe a tin ceiling. Almost taller than it was wide.
He was very pleasant and even witty, a gentle giant of sorts.
Yet at the same time, extremely menacing looking.
Even the youngest and smallest of students were highly disciplined and respectful of others as classes proceeded.

There was a Degerberg retail store with workout clothing, t-shirts, etc. on the 1st floor. Which we must have cut through to access the stairs to floor 2.

HughJazz on September 29, 2010 at 3:37 am

My family lived in the Lasker Building from 1951 to 1975. Our apartment was at 2325 w Giddings, and from our second floor back porch you could see the arched roof and rear loading dock of the Bertha. I remember climbing the fire escapes to the Bertha’s roof, from which you could view Downtown Chicago. The building was originally steam heated by coal-fired boilers. Lill Coal’s truck would park on Lincoln and deliver coal via a trapdoor in the sidewalk to the coal bin. Later the boilers were converted to gas. There was a tavern on Lincoln run by a platinum blonde lady named Dorothy. I used to play with her son Mark behind the tavern.

HughJazz on February 21, 2011 at 3:44 am

Through the research of “Charles R” in his Post-1970 History of the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, I have recently learned that my father, who worked at the Music Box Theatre from 1929 until 1976, fist worked at the Bertha in 1928. He had emigrated to Chicago from Germany when he was 16 years old, and he had a maternal Uncle who was already working in the Lasker Building as a custodian. The Bertha was part of the Lasker Building, so Uncle probably got my father his first U.S. job there.

HughJazz on January 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

Excellent Postcard image! View today is surprisingly similar. I lived around the corner of this building at the 2325 w Giddings entrance for 25 years. I am always amazed at what historic items are still available, and how easy it is to enjoy them on line. Thank you for sharing this postcard.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 27, 2016 at 9:20 pm

The principal architect of Grossman & Proskauer was Adolph Proskauer. Mr. Grossman appears to have been an engineer. A notice that plans by the firm were underway for a building at Lincoln and Giddings, to contain a theater, nine stores, plus offices and flats, appeared in the May 31, 1913, issue of Construction News.

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