Hidden Land of Horses
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 14, 2008 9:20PM
Every morning on our way to work, the Brown Line takes us past a building declaring itself as Noble Horse Theater. We always peered down from our perch up on the L and wondered what this place is all about, and could sometimes even see horses hanging out in a paddock the size of three Old Town brownstones.
As we suspected it turns out that the Noble Horse Theater does specialize in horse-centric shows. They actually have the market cornered, since apparently there are no other live horse performances in the city. (Medieval Times doesn’t count … it’s in Schaumburg, folks). Depending on the time of year, the theater presents three different themed shows: the Quadrille, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and the Nutcracker. The Quadrille is the theater’s current running performance, and mimics a horse festival in Napoleonic-era 1804, after a French victory over the Austrians, and according noble Horse comes complete with; “magnificent Spanish stallions, exciting Cossack riders, Arabian horses from the desert, and amazing gypsies.”
We found the heavy history that the theater and location has with the city of Chicago even more fascinating. The building was built in 1871 after the Chicago fire to stable horses and carriages owned by local Chicagoans. After being renovated into a riding academy in 1922, the location operated as Lakeshore Stables and offered trail riding through Lincoln Park and as far north as Foster Avenue. Over the years, the building began to deteriorate, but a grant from the city in 2000 allowed for a major renovation – restoring the performance hall and the stables to their original state – and cementing the building’s status as a historical site. The location is the oldest operating riding hall in North America.
Some of the horses that are stabled and perform at Noble Horse Theater also pull the carriages that you see up and around The Magnificent Mile, so you can rest easy at night, knowing these animals go to bed in a historically significant building – kind of like the fruit flies at Macy’s.
More information on the Noble Horse Theater performances and show times can be found here.
Image from the noble Horse's website