ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago

Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio in Chicago, Illinois

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ABC7 Chicago State Street Studio
Official name:190 North State Street
Formerly:State-Lake Theater

190 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60601
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This building gets mentioned in the media even more than the Sears Tower. That’s because its address is also the name of a television show on WLS-TV/DT (channels 7 and 52). But the structure’s entertainment heritage pre-dates electronic media. This building was originally erected to house the State-Lake Theater. Its façade is white terra cotta, and contains a number of minor decorative flourishes that when combined give the impression of delicate decoration. Just a few years later the same architects, Rapp and Rapp, would build the far more impressive Chicago Theater across the street.

By the time World War Two started, the heyday of the battling Chicago theaters was waning. But 190 North State Street would become the center of a new form of local entertainment: television. Above the theater section of this building are ten stories of offices. It was from here in 1940 that television station W9XBK went on the air. Those call letters mean little to most people today. The television station they represent eventually became WBKB, and later WBBM-TV, then back to WBKB, and eventually WLS-TV when theater owners Balaban and Katz sold the operation to the ABC network.

There is a Chicago urban legend (repeated in some architecture books) which states that WLS-TV was the first television station in Chicago, and the third-oldest in the nation. This is simply not true. The first television station in Chicago was W9XAA, which went on the air 12 years before W9XBK/WBKB/WBBM-TV/WLS-TV. It was the television arm of what was then the Chicago Federation of Labor’s WCFL radio. Several other television stations joined it and were broadcasting a lineup and information and entertainment shows years before the early form of WLS-TV (then known as WENR-TV) ever went on the air.

But the broadcasting heritage of 190 North State Street cannot be denied. This building eventually became home to WLS radio as well. It's call letters symbolizing "World's Largest Store" because its owner was the legendary department store chain (and former catalog operator) Sears Roebuck and Company. Being in the heart of the theater district helped lure performers to the studio from neighboring theaters, and helped solidify this building’s position in the Chicago broadcasting history books.

In 2006, WLS Television's building once again gained attention by transforming itself into a tourist attraction. In April of that year the State Street Studio went into operation. This facility allows the general public to peer in and see a working television studio. WLS-TV/DT is actually the second station in Chicago to allow such an opportunity. A few blocks away, WMAQ-TV/DT (channels 5 and 29) gives the viewing public the same chance at space it rents in the Equitable building on Michigan Avenue. Also going street-side is WBBM-TV/DT (channels 2 and 3), which plans to open a street-front studio at 108 North State -- virtually across the street from the WLS operation.

Quick Facts
Timeline
  • April 10, 2006: WLS Television opened its new State Street Studio, allowing the public to look through bulletproof glass at a news operation in action.
  • December 23, 2007: A mini-van plowed into the studio during the 10pm news. No one is hurt.
Notes
  • The State Street Studio renovation was designed by Legat Architects.
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Your Thoughts

There are eight comments.

  I've just been reading through some old letters my father wrote to his mother in March of 1944 while he was stationed with the Navy in Chicago for training as a "Radio Technician" for the WWII effort. This Iowa boy loved Chicago, and was going to apply for officers training after completing his RT schooling. Imagine my surprise when he states "the primary school is at 190 N. State St"!! Just a little piece of history.

Suzi Coin - Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 @ 4:25pm  

   I am pleased to have found this webpage through an image search I did of 190 N. State. The building is magnificant. I havent been downtown in years, but I remember seeing the building prior to the latest renovation. I am planning a trip downtown very soon to see the WLS studio & lovely architecture. I suppose that I may even eat @Potbelly- I had always enjoyed their delicious sandwiches @their origional Lincoln Av. location. Thanks, Duke K. -Indiana

Duke Kalderoe - Monday, October 5th, 2009 @ 5:44pm  

  Chicago has always been a beautiful city. I can remember when it only cost $1.75 to view a movie at the State & Lake theatre, now its ABC7NEWS, change is always welcome. (((Smile)))

Sandy - Thursday, January 31st, 2008 @ 9:00pm  

  cool i was there yesterday morning! i waved at the weather man!! lol it looks really kool inside

Narda - Friday, July 27th, 2007 @ 4:25am  

  This is a wonderful thing for Chicago, adding more to our delightful city. I remember when Oprah's show was there.I love my chicago because it always give us new things but we still remember the old things. Thank you 190 North for feeding our memoriesMs. Ramos

Amelia Ramos - Monday, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:04pm  

  When I first saw this futuristic TV, I thought: the future is NOW!

kirby cruz - Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 8:35pm  

  Nice job on the latest renovation. Good addition to State Street. But I'm left to wonder along with the previous poster (Abel) about when WGN and WFLD/Fox will get streetside? Especially since WGN could use those studios in the base of the Trib Tower and have maybe the best views of anyone?

Dean Skora - Thursday, April 20th, 2006 @ 3:12pm  

  Nice building. Now that channel 2, channel 5 and channel 7 have public studios when will WGN get one?

Abel Jonston - Saturday, April 8th, 2006 @ 1:23am  

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