Being the second largest city in Illinois; Aurora, is one of Chicagoland's outer suburbs. It has a population of approximately 199,000 people and is also considered to be the 115th most populace city in the nation.
Joseph McCarty, a pioneer from New York State, came west seeking a new home. Reaching the Fox Valley, he built the first campfire in April of 1834 on the island, which is now the site of downtown Aurora. He thought that the Fox River location was an ideal place for a new community and told his brother, Samuel.
It was not long before Samuel arrived, family was sent for, and a permanent settlement was taking roots. The settlement was named McCarty mills for the brothers' grist mill and sawmill. In 1837, when a Post Office was established, the village became Aurora, goddess of the dawn. Later, when the City was the first in the United States to use electric lights for publicly lighting the entire City, it achieved the nickname of "City of Lights."
In the 1920s, Paramount Pictures began to construct theaters that could accompany their latest films. Talkies had just begun to appear in theaters, and Paramount executives predicted exponential growth in the industry. Older theaters had acoustics and audience accommodations ideal for live theater, but advances in film technology required new trends in these areas. However, since all new theaters showed the same performances, theater design could streamline by having similar visual design. Vaudeville was now only shown on weekends and was no longer a medium for nationally recognized talent.
The Paramount Theatre in Aurora was commissioned in 1931 by J. J. Rubens for one million dollars. It was designed by esteemed theater architects C. W. and George Leslie Rapp. It was the first air conditioned building built outside of Chicago. Paramount intended to bring such large theaters to all large cities across the country, but the Great Depression effectively ended these plans. The theater opened in September 1931 with appearances from Paramount film stars including The Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Jeanette MacDonald and Burns and Allen. It is capable of holding 1,885 people; originally it held 2,125, but capacity had to be reduced to conform to fire codes.
In 1976, the theater closed for renovation following its sale to the Aurora Civic Center Authority. It re-opened on April 19, 1978. On September 10, 1986, it was recognized as a Historic Place by the United States National Park Service, and was simultaneously recognized as contributing property of the Stolp Island Historic District. A lobby was added in 2006, and it remains an important part of the downtown Aurora economy.
In 1993 Penn National Gaming Inc. which operates approximately 43 casinos in the United States as well as Canada, opened up the first riverboat casino on the Fox River, in Aurora, by the name of Hollywood.
The casino has 53,000 square feet of gaming space and over 1,000 slot machines and 26 table games. Three restaurants are on the property, including Fairbanks Steakhouse, Epic Buffet, and Take Two Deli. To comply with Illinois law, it is not open 24 hours a day and is smoke-free.
More views of Aurora in the next post......