Coronado Theatre

Rockford, Illinois | C.1927

Photo Credit: DLR Group

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Once voted the “No. 1 Architectural Wonder of the United States” for its awe-inspiring design, it seems fitting that the Coronado is commonly known as “Rockford’s Wonder Theatre.” Combining the gilded grandeur of Spanish castles and Italian villas, the building’s lavish decor is full of intricate details around every corner, including a ceiling that looks like a midnight sky — complete with floating clouds and twinkling stars. But the marvels of the Coronado don’t stop there. There’s one particular piece of this theater that is so rare, it’s one of only two left in the entire world.

Embellished in red and gold with intricate dragons painted on either side, the Coronado’s Grand Barton organ is one of the last remaining instruments of its kind. It was custom built for the theater by the Barton Organ Company, and is so large it had to be shipped by train in five separate boxcars. Even better, it has over a thousand pipes, and is rumored to be able to create over a quarter of a million sounds making it the perfect accompaniment for silent movies during the theater’s early days.

When the Coronado Theatre was restored by DLR Group in the early 2000s, from historic public areas to repurposing an Art Deco theater manager’s office for meeting space, the organ saw a full restoration as well. Today, the instrument remains under the care of the Land of Lincoln Theater Organ Society, a nonprofit that gives theater tours and brief organ concerts throughout the year.

While the Coronado Theatre has seen countless legends grace its stage since it opened in 1927, should you find yourself nestled in these plush red velvet seats, don’t forget to look out for the other legend that sits atop this stage. Here’s hoping you even get lucky enough to hear it play.

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