Latino Voices

For 35 Years, a Chicago Family Has Fostered Community at Apollo’s 2000 Theater in Little Village. Now the Century-Old Venue is a City Landmark

For 35 Years, a Chicago Family Has Fostered Community at Apollo’s 2000 Theater in Little Village. Now the Century-Old Venue is a City Landmark

For nearly 35 years, Javier Galindo and Lidia Galindo Corral have welcomed artists from all over the world to the Apollo’s 2000 Theater in Little Village.

They’ve hosted politicians from all levels of government — including then-Vice President Al Gore — and gathered community members for wrestling, fashion shows and quinceañeras. The building, known as the Marshall Square Theatre when it opened in 1917, is now being designated a Chicago landmark.

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It’s a decision the couple’s oldest daughter, Evelyn Stell, said has been almost 20 years in the making.

“A lot has been done to the building in order to adapt to our current times,” Stell said. “But being able to bring back and restore the exterior of it would be a great way of honoring the past and history of the building, its architectural history.”

The history is captured in the terracotta facade and marquee, the prominent domed ceiling, and even the old projection room where operators left behind carbon rods and film reels.

“That’s the time capsule because we seldom go up there,” Galindo said. “This is just a personal thing, you know, with me, and her, you know, to actually maintain that sense of respect for the people that worked on it, … the builder, the architect of the design. You know, they’re gone, but they’re still present here. And we have to respect them for the amazing job that they did.”

The craftsmanship and big-name performers aren’t the only history contained in these walls.

In the 1980s, Galindo ran a successful nightclub in Chicago. But when the club’s roof caved in, he and his wife — who had only been married about six months — saw their future crashing down, too.

“We’re like, ‘Now what?’” Galindo said. “We had been so, we were being so successful. And all of a sudden your dreams are just down the gutter, literally right down the gutter. But it’s, like, at that point, it’s like, ‘What have I got to lose?’”

Galindo thought back to an offer he’d received to purchase the shuttered Marshall Square Theater. It was a deal he didn’t take seriously at first.

“We came to see the place,” Galindo Corral said. “And when I saw it, it looked like a palace for me — because it was at the time, movie theaters were like a palace. So I was in love at the first moment. So then it was like a dream to become the owners of this place.”

The theater would become a second home to the couple and their daughters, Evelyn, Naomi and Isis, who grew up exploring the place.

“You could really be an artist, go up on stage,” Stell said. “I mean, I’m really talking about using your imagination and playing. And now I know what it feels like to have a child and get a sense of what my parents must have thought. So I envision this being a playground for him as well, and being able to just enjoy it.”

As the Galindos begin to pass the business to the next generation, they said they hope landmark status will revitalize the neighborhood and bring recognition to a hidden gem in the heart of the Latino community.

“You don’t really see many landmarks in our community, particularly in areas that are highly disinvested and where there’s a high population of minorities,” Stell said. “So it’s a privilege for us to be able to bring in the prestige of being a landmark to our community.”

Although many big names have walked through the doors, the Galindos said it’s the community members who’ve made the greatest impact.

“I truly do feel like this is part of my community,” Stell said, “and being able to not just be a part of it, but also serve it and help those in the community establish memories … is a great sense of pride for us.”

The final landmark ordinance went to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s desk for his signature last week.

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