ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Although 5723 N. Second St. in Loves Park is most recently known as the home of popular record store CD Source, area residents on Tuesday were also recalling memories they have from when it was the Park Theatre.
“The Park Theatre was a theater you would go to watch movies back in the day,” said longtime local resident and businessman Guy Spinello. “It was a real popular place at that time.”
The former movie house was destroyed by fire early Tuesday morning. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Dave Ritter connected with Eyewitness News on Facebook, recalling the days when he worked at the theater in the 1980s, spending hundreds of hours rebuilding the marquee.
“(We) finally finished, and we had a crowd there one evening to once again see it all lit up in its glory,” Ritter commented. “A lot of history there.”
Camp Grant Quonset hut
The building at 5723 N. Second St. was a Quonset hut erected in 1947, the same year Loves Park was incorporated, making it one of the city’s oldest buildings.
As in the years following the Civil War, the military was left with a massive surplus of goods after World War II. To recoup some of their costs, the Army sold off those goods to merchants who opened surplus stores. Some items were repurposed in other ways, like the Quonset hut that became the Park Theatre, a building that was part of Camp Grant, Rockford’s U.S. Army training facility that operated from 1917 to 1946.
The Park Theatre opened on May 20, 1948, with a showing of “Slave Girl,” an adventure comedy starring Yvonne De Carlo and George Brent.
The theater became a popular weekend spot known for affordable tickets. In the 1960s, double features were only $.75. There were also days when admission was a quarter.
The Park Theatre became Park Art Theatre in the early ‘70s and showed mostly adult films. It closed in 1978. The space then became a longtime craft store, followed by a resale shop.
CD Source owner Brian Bowman moved his business into the space four years ago. His customers took to social media en masse Tuesday, expressing their support after learning the building was a total loss.
“If he chooses to restart his business, I have around 100+ CD’s (I’d gladly) give him to start,” Karen Gillespie commented on the Eyewitness News Facebook page.
Shannon Merrell added: “When I was looking for a hard-to-find vinyl, they had it. I’m heartbroken that this place is gone. What a nice guy, too.”
Rockford native Gwen Kinder has started a GoFundMe campaign to help Bowman reopen his business.
Bowman was at the scene of the fire Tuesday morning but was unavailable for comment.