The Orpheum Theater, the almost 108-year-old theater had a different name back then. It was called the Majestic Opera House and it was indeed majestic. It opened on the same day that the Titanic sank, on April 15 in 1912
It was the second oldest theater in the country, right after the Palace Theater in Los Angeles. To anyone that’s interested, you can find the Orpheum Theater located in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Construction of the Orpheum Theater
In 1910, the French Sharpshooters Club wanted to create an astonishing building that would please everyone’s eye. The one who was brave enough to design such a fine architecture was Louis Destremps. Destremps had quite a broad experience in this field. He had also worked on projects such as the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Inside the building, Destremps didn’t design the theater only. He also included a large ballroom, a shooting range, a gym, a shop, retail premises, offices and even meeting rooms! He reckoned that the building would be more complete with these other additions.
The construction of the theater began in 1910. After a lot of work, it was finally completed in 1912. During the opening ceremony, numerous locals gathered at the theater. They were extremely curious about the opening act of the Five Musical Durands and wanted to enjoy it live.
The French Sharpshooters Club had many successful, profitable years. It made a really income from both the ballroom and the theater. The fact that the building was located in the center with shops and liveliness around helped it thrive. The local trolleybus route ran through the street the Orpheum Theater was located too.
The theater was suitable for both the lower and the upper classes. It offered various seats which had different prices; ranging from affordable prices to more expensive ones situated at the balcony and other locations of the theater. In total, it had 1,500 seats available when it was first opened.
However, those seats were eventually replaced with more modern ones. After some years though, these new seats were sold and the old ones were installed again. The capacity of the theater went from 1,500 to 1,200 people.
Many various performances for the masses took place in this theater. These performances were all different and people enjoyed them very much. Initially, the theater gained its fame for showing movies such as King Kong and Citizen Kane when it became the Radio Keith Orpheum. After some time, more than 400 theaters were associated with the Orpheum all over the country.
As for the splendid ballroom, various parties, exhibitions and wedding receptions took place there. What’s more, during WWII, troops were given the opportunity to learn marksmanship in these large ballroom.
Closure & New Owner
Unfortunately, the theater had to close down in 1958. After that year, is was occasionally opened for special events only. In 1962, the building was sold to a tobacco company that used it as a storehouse for its products. That marked officially the end of this great theater that will forever remain in the locals’ heart for the entertainment it offered to them.
Now, the nonprofit organization Orpheum Rising Project Helpers (O.R.P.H. Inc) owns the building. They aim to restore the Orpheum Theater and the French Sharpshooters’ Hall. If they achieve this goal of theirs, then the area will be able to benefit from another cultural center. Hopefully, they will manage to restore this theater’s beauty once again.