Orpheum Theater, 910 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Orpheum Theater

Historic Photo of Orpheum Marquee circa 1943
Current Photo of Orpheum Marquee circa 2008
Address: 910 Hennepin Avenue
Neighborhood/s: Downtown, Minneapolis, Minnesota
City/locality-
State/province
Minneapolis, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1921
Additions: Rear of stage extended in 1993 to accommodate larger performances
Historic Function: Theater/concert hall
Current Function: Theater/concert hall
Architect or source of design: Kirchoff and Rose
Builder: Thompson-Starrett Company
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Concrete
Material of Foundation: Concrete
Part of the Site: Hennepin Theatre District

Downtown Minneapolis Hennepin County

Orpheum Theater, 910 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.976396° N, 93.277509° WLatitude: 44°58′35.026″N
Longitude: 93°16′39.032″W
)
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference Number: 95001548
Certification date: January 19, 1996
Primary Style: Beaux Arts
Year/s of Major Alterations: 1993


The Orpheum Theatre was originally known as the Hennepin Theater when it opened in 1921. It seats 2,579 spectators; a seating arrangement that has not changed from the original architecture of the building despite other alterations to the building in 1993. The Orpheum is seated in the heart of the Hennepin Theater District in Downtown West, between 9th and 8th Avenues. It’s proximity to State Theater and the Pantages Theater has solidified the area as the heart of arts and theater in Minneapolis since its inception.

Contents


Memories and stories

Construction and Early Operation

The Orpheum was designed by the Milwaukee-based Architecture firm Kirchoff and Rose who modeled the building in a Beaux Arts style. On opening night, the stage's first performers included the Marx Brothers, and more than 70,000 guests attending the show that first week. In addition, the Orpheum was heralded as the largest vaudeville house in the country, and it became a major outlet for famous Vaudeville performers like Jack Benny, George Burns and Fanny Brice. The Orpheum had a playroom and day care off the front lobby and backstage there were eight floors of dressing rooms. Unfortunately, the popularity of vaudeville began to declined in the 1930s-’40s. In response to the changes in entertainment, the Orpheum became one of Minneapolis’s major cinema houses. Gone with the Wind came to the Theater in 1940 and sold out every show for three weeks. Furthermore, in the height of the 1940's big-band era it hosted a gamete of popular musical entertainers. In 1959, Ted Mann, who at the time owned the nearby Pantages Theater, bought the Orpheum. New ownership helped to bring in new touring productions, including My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof. As the popularity of live theater began to decline in the 1970's, the Orpheum again responded by hosting several popular film productions of the day.

Renovation

In 1988, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency bought the Orpheum which at the time was owned by Minnesota native Bob Dylan. Shortly thereafter, in 1993, to accommodate larger productions, renovation began to extend the Orpheum stage almost 20 feet, removing the original brick wall of the rear of the building. Despite the renovation, the chandelier in the main auditorium remained the theatre centerpiece; It is 15 feet high and weighs 2,000 pounds. After spending over $10 million on restoration, the Orpheum re-opened in December 1993 with a concert by rock group Heart. Live theater returned to the stage shortly thereafter in January 1994

Current Operation

Not only have world-famous Broadway shown made stops in Minneapolis at the Orpheum, but some have even originated there, including world premiere of Disney’s The Lion King. The Hennepin Theatre Trust is now the owner and operator of the Theater, as well as the adjacent Pantages and State Theater

Significance to Hennepin Avenue

The Orpheum Theater is on the National Register of Historic Places for local designation under the category reading "Structures, lands, areas or district considered for preservation [which] exemplify the broad trends of cultural, political, economic or social history; however, they may also represent an unusual counter development to such broad trends" and "Structures, lands, areas or districts considered for preservation [that] display the distihgushing characteristics of an architectural type inherently valuable for study of a style or method of construction." Furthermore, the theater is architecturally significant as an excellent surviving example of ornate theater which was archetypal in the early 20th Century. It is historically significant as well for mapping the change in social and cultural landscapes with respect to theater and the public perception of the arts.

Photo Gallery

Notes

Reasearch Material Courtesy of:

Minnesota Historical Society, National Register of Historic Places, City of Minneapolis, Hennepin Theater Trust

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