As it says over the door, the Balaban Mausoleum was built “In Memoriam to Ida Balaban Katz,” the sister of the founders of Balaban and Katz, the iconic movie palace moguls. The mausoleum was designed by Rapp and Rapp, the same architects who designed the Chicago Theater which still stands as a highly recognizable icon of the city.
Though the Balaban family had been in the movie-house business for several years and had even built their own theater prior to the formation of their eponymous business, the Balaban brothers and Sam Katz partnered as Balaban and Katz in 1916 and originally hired Rapp and Rapp to design their first movie palace, the Central Park, on the city’s west side.
Their eventual chain of spectacular movie palaces included the Chicago, the Oriental (which I previously discussed in my Iroquois Theater Fire posts as the theater that replaced the former Iroquois and was renamed the Nederlander in 2019), and – for old-school Styx fans – the Paradise Theater which inspired their 1981 concept album of the same name. A handful of these, like the Chicago and Nederlander, are still in use in some fashion today around the Chicago area.
I tried to boil things down for the caption, but there’s far too much good stuff – check out AJ Balaban’s entry on Wikipedia for more and also the one on Balaban and Katz. There are also several spots around the internet with more info on Balaban and Katz.
Their success in Chicago grew to have national impacts and Ida’s brothers and husband (and the Balaban family) left Chicago in 1929, living and working in New York. The Balabans later made Geneva, Switzerland, their homebase. Sam went on to serve as VP of MGM under Louis B Mayer; Barney served as president of Paramount. Upon their deaths, though, all returned to Waldheim to join Ida in the family mausoleum.
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