Orpheum Theater

1214 Baltimore Avenue,
Kansas City, MO 64105

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Orpheum Theatre ca.1916

This newer Orpheum Theater opened on December 26, 1914 and the old Orpheum Theater was then left vacant and was later razed in 1922.

The new Orpheum Theater was designed for a sumptuous experiences inside and out. Built to resemble the Paris Opera House, the exterior was faced with terra cotta designed to resemble Tennessee marble. Embedded along the top of the building’s facade were carved panels symbolically depicting art and music.

The lobby floor was enhanced with a random marble mosaic in figured patterns and panels. A spacious ladies lounge provided divans, lounging chairs, writing desks, telephones, and dressing tables as well as offering maid service. Inside the auditorium was a domed roof painted blue and highlighted with artificial stars. The main stage curtain was made of wire woven asbestos painted to resemble velvet drapery and weighed in excess of 1,200 pounds.

As motion pictures gained in popularity and vaudeville declined, the Orpheum Theater owners tried to draw audiences with legitimate theater in the 1930’s, motion pictures only from September 2, 1938 and legitimate theater again in the 1950’s. These efforts proved to be unsuccessful at filling the theater’s seats, and in 1962, the Orpheum Thetaer was brought down to make room for an addition to the Muehlebach Hotel.

Contributed by Paul Salley

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on June 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

There were many theaters named Orpheum, however, there were seven that were disigned and built in a very similar style. These were the live performance Orpheum’s bult prior to 1920. The Kansas City Orpheum was considered to be the most beautiful of the seven and took on a look similar to the Paris Opera House both inside and outside. The St. Louis Orpheum looks very Ksimilar inside to the KC Theater and it indeed still in operation but the main floor has been tiered. The paint color sceme is very similar to what was done to the KC Orpheum in 1951 to spruce it up for the showing of The Robe – the very first Cinimascope Picture. The theater was beautiful and in prestine condition. It was a pride of Kansas City along with The Loew’s Midland Theater a block away. Many Kansas Citians were horrifid to learn that the Tower and the Orpheum would be raised in the same year. We also saw the loss of the Esquire which had been recently renovated by a local owner. I think we are all still waiting for pics to be posted by bobster1985 – hope he does have some pics. At one time, I had an interior pic with the curtain open showing the cinimascope screen but have been unable to find it. The New Orleans Orpheum and the St. Louis Orpheum have very similar exteriors. The interiors are again similar but not quite as opulent as the KC Orpheum was. The Boston Orpheum is now gone and so is the Madison, WS. The Omaha Orpheum was built in a similar style and was larger – more similar to the Loew’s Midland – still very beautiful and in use for Live Stage Shows.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on June 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Kansas City and St.Louis, MO had some of the most beautiful theaters in the country and most are gone. The worst horror story is the loss of the SF Fox and the NY Roxy.

bobster1985 on June 10, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Mike, I did post them yesterday. Aren’t you able to see them?

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on June 11, 2013 at 5:17 am

Yes – they are wonderful – do you have any interior pics of other theaters in KC?

bobster1985 on June 11, 2013 at 8:14 am

I’m afraid not, Mike. It sure was a beautiful theater, wasn’t it? How sad they let it be demolished, just like the Fox Theater here in San Francisco.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on June 11, 2013 at 9:43 am

Even though I was a small boy, I remember that the recessed lighting was a Rose color off of the antique white and gold leaf – it was beautiful. The stage curtain was a beautiful crimson color and so were the redone seats. The orghestra seats were beutiful and taken over to the Tower Theater to prep it for the long run of Oklahoma. The screen was taking and installed at The Uptown Theater when it became obvious that it was going to be demolished. The facade was supposed to be saved for the new edition of the Hotel. Looking at what there is now – it is a crime that it was not saved.

dickneeds111 on April 30, 2015 at 10:49 am

To KCB3Player. Just to update you. The Boston Orpheum theatre is not gone. It is one of the oldest theatres in the country havimg opened in 1852 as the Boston Music Hall. It wasn’t named the Orpheum until 1906. In 1915 it was taken over by Loews(1915-1971) when it became the Aquarius until 1974. It became the Orpheum again in 1975. It was never an ornate theatre but it had it’s own character. It was never one of the 7 Orpheums. It has been a live music theatre since 1971 with a few movies thrown in. The balcony was removed years ago. Some of the biggest names in music from Rock, Country, Rap and classical have played here. It is still a grand old lady. Look it up on Wikipedia for more info.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on April 30, 2015 at 1:52 pm

I think there may have been a different theater in Boston than what you are talking about. It was designed by the same company the built the Orpheum Theaters in New Orleans, Kansas City and St.Louis. Maybe it was not known as the Orpheum in Boston, but was on the same circuit in the early days. Today’s Orpheum Theater in Boston is not the same theater that was part of the group of theaters built at the same time with a similar design. I will try to find out more about it. However, with that said, I am so grateful that the Boston Paramount has been saved and is beautiful again and also the theater up the street which I think is called The Lyric.

rivest266 on April 21, 2018 at 3:47 pm

December 26th, 1914 grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on April 29, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Movies only as of September 2nd, 1938. Another ad in the photo section.

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