A unique performance complex, the Athenaeum Theatre opened in 1911 as part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. Conceived as a "neighborhood playhouse," by the original German-American parish, the Athenaeum Theatre is a historic building and the oldest continuously operating off-Loop theater in Chicago. The Athenaeum Theatre shares its heritage by using its various spaces for the arts, educational, and social service communities. The building houses five performance spaces and offices and rehearsal halls for performing arts groups as well as a gymnasium and a food pantry. The theatre serves as a cultural resource and a forum for arts groups and audiences both in the neighborhood and the greater Chicago area.