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Then and Now: Chicago Coliseum

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Coliseum located at 1513 South Wabash Avenue viewed from across the street with parked automobiles visible

Photograph: Courtesy Chicago History Museum

1923

The Chicago Coliseum arena on Wabash Avenue—the last of three Coliseum stadiums in the city—began its life hundreds of miles away as a Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia, where it was later deconstructed brick by brick before being reassembled in Chicago’s South Loop. Fancied up with a new, castle-like exterior, for years the edifice housed a Civil War museum. In 1900, investors converted the Gothic structure into a stadium that soon became a hot spot for political conventions, sporting events and concerts. In its heyday, the venue hosted renowned rock icons like The Doors and Jimi Hendrix.

Photograph: Emma Krupp

2020

After getting slapped with a series of fire code violations, the once-illustrious Coliseum remained shuttered, used only for auto and boat storage, for 11 years before its demolition in 1982. Nowadays, the site is home to the Chicago outpost of Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization that facilitates meetings, classes and community events for its members and people curious about Buddhism. Look across the street, though, and you’ll catch a glimpse of the stadium’s legacy via the eponymous Coliseum Park, which designers have outfitted with a stone-and-metal pavilion meant to evoke the stately bearing of the former hall.

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