Orpheum Theatre

1 Hamilton Place,
Boston, MA 02108

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Showing 101 - 125 of 138 comments

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 12, 2005 at 8:05 am

Tremont Street is higher in elevation than Washington St, so that’s why one had to walk up a flight of stairs from the Orpheum’s entrance on Washington Street in order to reach the foyer which is at street level on Hamilton Place, off Tremont. I went to the movies at this theatre often, starting circa-1950. It was a busy house and in good condition right into the 1960s. A good view of the south wall can be obtained by going to the Virgin Records store on Winter St. on a sunny afternoon. Go to the front of the 2nd floor, west end.The alley you see is Music Hall Place. The orange-brick wall is the original from the 1852 Music Hall. The entrance to the Corner Mall at the head of the alley is an old entrance to the Music Hall. Lining the right side of the alley were poster boards for the Hall. At the corner, circa 1910, was a vertical sign for the Orpheum. Inside the entrance, in Music Hall days, there was a ticket office, and staircases. One staircase led up to the Hamilton Place lobby. One or more other stair cases led up into the auditorium. These had metal gates across them that were opened prior to the performance. Also down at that level was Bumpstead Hall, a smaller venue and part of the Boston Music Hall. As a performance hall and lecture room, Bumpstead Hall apparently went out of use after 1900. The area eventually became part of Gilchrist’s dept. store, and later the Corner Mall. The Music Hall’s stage was at the south end of the building. The stage was really a concert platform, like that of Mechanics Hall in Worcester, and did not have a proscenium arch. (Although they had a portable arch there which could be set up by request.) I’m not positive, but I think that the stage door of the Music Hall was the last door on the right as one stood in Hamilton Place looking at the entrance. The Music Hall was somewhat unique in that two major entrances, at Hamilton Place and at Music Hall Place, were both at the stage-end of the building. Most theatres and concert halls have their entrances at the audience-end of the structure !

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 30, 2005 at 4:11 pm

The photo must be at least a year old, because the ‘Fleet Pavilion’ advertised on the marquee is now called the Bank of America Pavilion.

(Actually, it was called the FleetBoston Pavilion, before that the BankBoston Pavilion, and before that Harborlights.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 4:53 am

An Aldo Shoe store is listed in the Boston phone book at 413 Washington Street. The store itself has no street number posted, nor do its neighbors. It is long and narrow, with a canopy-style sign over the sidewalk that looks like it may have once been a marquee. At the back of the store, an EXIT sign leads to a long flight of stairs. Perhaps these go up to the theatre, but I wasn’t able to explore.

A separate sign above the store now advertises The Corner Mall (next door), but I’m pretty sure it used to advertise the Orpheum, even long after this entrance had been converted to retail use.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 3:12 am

The Orpheum is listed in the 1966 annual report of Loew’s Theatres, Inc., but not in the 1967 annual report. This leads me to believe that Loew’s divested this theatre considerably earlier than the 1972 date given by King.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 23, 2005 at 5:08 pm

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the Boston Music Hall opened in November 1852, seating about 2500 patrons. When it opened, it had three entrances: Hamilton Place (off Tremont Street, still used today); Bumstead Place (off Tremont Street); and Central or Winter Place (later Music Hall Place, off Winter Street).

After the Boston Symphony Orchestra departed for a new Symphony Hall in the Fenway, the Music Hall needed a new use. William Morris had it converted into a vaudeville theatre. It reopened on Labor Day 1900, advertising “Continuous Refined Vaudeville – NOT CONTROLLED BY A TRUST”. The Bumstead Place entrance was closed.

It was substantially remodeled yet again and reopened as the Empire Theatre on Feburary 12, 1905, with an additional entrance added at 415 Washington Street. On September 3, 1906, it became the Orpheum, still presenting vaudeville. On Sptember 13, 1909, it briefly became the American Music Hall, but in 1910 it was once more the Orpheum. William Morris sold it and his other theatres to Marcus Loew, and it became Loew’s Orpheum, featuring “pictures and vaudeville, 10-15-25 cents”.

Loew closed the Orpheum in 1915, then gutted and rebuilt it with 3320 seats after acquiring additional land. He reopened it on January 20, 1916 with continuous vaudeville and movies, whose titles were initially not advertised. The Music Hall Place entrance was abandoned; it eventually became part of a department store.

By the early 1930s, the Orpheum had dropped vaudeville and instead played first-run double-feature films. Gone With the Wind played an exclusive long run at the Orpheum in 1939.

Loew’s Theatres abandoned the Orpheum on January 18, 1972. It reopened as the Aquarius, but by 1974 was once again the Orpheum. Sarah Caldwell’s opera company performed here while searching for a more permanent home. The Orpheum eventually lost its Washington Street entrance.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 23, 2005 at 12:54 pm

From the Boston Public Library’s photo collection:

Washington Street showing Loew’s Orpheum, 1925

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 29, 2005 at 10:14 am

Two stereograph photos of the organ in the former Music Hall, some time before 1884:

photo #1 (description)

photo #2 (description)

AlLarkin on May 7, 2005 at 11:13 am

Got my only look inside the Orpheum during First Night activities several years ago. This theater, in addition to its other firsts over the years, has to be the original for stadium style seating.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 14, 2005 at 6:59 am

Here are some photos of the former side entrance on Music Hall Place, off Winter Street. This entrance is no longer used, and Music Hall Place now leads instead to The Corner Mall’s food court.

Music Hall Place, 1890: photo and description

Music Hall Place, 1900: photo and description

Music Hall Place, 1965: photo and description. The description says we are looking at an entrance to Gilchrist’s department store, which closed in the 1970s and was replaced by The Corner Mall.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 14, 2005 at 5:31 am

Here’s a 19th century photo, from when it was still the Boston Music Hall. The accompanying description is definitely in error, since it dates the photo to 1979. I’ve told the Bostonian Society of their mistake, and they are now trying to determine the photo’s correct date. They now believe it was taken some time after 1884, after the Music Hall’s organ was removed.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on April 13, 2005 at 6:21 am

Good point. I remember being inside about 30 years ago, and there was lots of white, very ornate, and a long entry hall with gold handrails, marble steps, and a smaller lobby. Wouldn’t color photos of the insides of these old theatres be great?

faluna on April 13, 2005 at 5:45 am

Does anyone know where i can find hisotrical photos of the inside of the orpheum?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 1, 2005 at 6:39 pm

An 1898 photo of the same scene as the last two photos, described here.
At this time it was still the Boston Music Hall.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 30, 2005 at 11:32 am

The Boston Music Hall’s former organ now resides in the Methuen Memorial Music Hall which was built especially for that purpose.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 30, 2005 at 6:15 am

Another Orpheum photo on Hamilton Place, this one from 1934. Description here.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 19, 2005 at 8:39 pm

According to an unpublished 1968 draft manuscript by Douglas Shand-Tucci entitled The Puritan Muse (available in the Fine Arts room of the Boston Public Library), what was originally the Boston Music Hall briefly changed its name to the Empire in 1904. It changed its name again, to the Orpheum, in 1906. Loew’s took it over on January 19 or 20, 1916.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 14, 2005 at 8:05 am

On page 77 of Kevin Lynch’s book The Image of the City you will see a photo of Washington and Summer Streets in Boston. The photo is undated, but the book has a 1960 copyright. In the foreground is Gilchrist’s department store (now The Corner Mall). Behind it is E.B. Horn Jewelers, and behind that is a five-story-high vertical sign reading “LOEW’S”. Below the vertical sign is the Loew’s Orpheum marquee, but the photo is too small for me to make out what is advertised there.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 8, 2005 at 2:55 pm

re: “It isn’t used anymore for movies"
Well, technically that’s not entirely so. On November 2, 2002 I saw Godfrey Reggio’s "Koyaanisqatsi” here in a special event with composer Philip Glass conducting a live performance of his score for the film. I don’t know if the projection equipment was specially installed for that show or if there is still equipment in the booth. From the visual and musical standpoint I thought the whole event was top-notch.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 8, 2005 at 2:48 pm

The side-alley location of the Orpheum’s only entrance also puts the place out of sight and out of mind for many people. It used to have an entrance on busy Washington Street, and later it still had at least a marquee there, but now even that is gone.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 8, 2005 at 1:57 pm

Unless you go to rock shows, or occasionally jazz or country music shows, you don’t really think about the Orpheum. It isn’t used anymore for movies, opera, ballet, legit theatre, or anything else.

bunnyman on February 8, 2005 at 12:05 pm

Strange, such an old theatre but you never hear anyone mention it as historic or even treasured part of Boston.
Perhaps because it is used so much and never seems in danger of being closed or demolished.

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 12:01 pm

One of the oldest cinema treasures in the country? Opened in 1852!WOW!

bunnyman on January 28, 2005 at 12:58 pm

I believe the Orpheum had one last shot at a movie run in the 80s when a Paul McCartney film bypassed USA Cinemas and played there for a week or two.