Blue Mill Theatre

500-504 56th Street,
Kenosha, WI 53140

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ORPHEUM (BLUE MILL) Theatre; Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Located on the northwest corner of Exchange Street (now Fifth Avenue) and Market Street (now 56th Street), Kenosha’s original Orpheum Theatre is long forgotten. It appears in photographs alongside the adjoining and far more famous original Rhode Opera House, and seems to be a frame building with a gabled roof, built at the start of the 20th century.

Charles Collins took it over in 1916 and renamed it the Blue Mill for the remaining two years of its operations, when it was demolished for the construction of the new Union Dye Works in 1918. The Union Dye Building was demolished in the 1970s and the property in 2005 is used for parking for the nearby Rhode Opera House (nee Gateway Theatre).

Contributed by Louis Rugani

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

MiltonSmith
MiltonSmith on September 13, 2007 at 6:56 am

I think this property now is actually a public parking lot frequently used by patrons of the bar “Cooler By The Lake” as its adjacent to that establishment. Does anyone have any pictures of this building?

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on February 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm

(Racine Journal-News, September 15, 1915) Arrested In Illinois: Harry G. Smith, Jr., who cut a wide swath in Kenosha some months ago as manager of the Orpheum theatre on East Market street and who left the city without any previous announcement and left a number of worthless checks behind him, has been arrested at Moline, Ill., on charges of grand larceny. The former Kenosha theatre manager surrendered himself to the police at Moline Friday and it is declared that he gave up when he found that the Moline officials were tightening a web of guilt about him. He is charged with stealing an automobile valued at three thousand dollars from T. F. Wharton. one of the officials of the Deere Harvesting company at Moline. The automobile was stolen on the night of Saturday, May 22. The machine was recovered at Farmington, Ill., some days late- and efforts had been made to repaint to prevent its being identified. Smith gave bonds of $1,500 following his arrest and he was held to the September grand jury.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on September 23, 2010 at 11:14 pm

(Racine Journal-News, September 20, 1915)
Arrested In Illinois

Harry G. Smith, jr., who cut a wide swath in Kenosha some months ago as manager of the Orpheum theatre on East Market street and who left the city without any previous announcement and left a number of worthless checks behind him, has been arrested at Moline, Ill., on charges of grand larceny. The former Kenosha theatre manager surrendered himself to the police at Moline Friday and it is declared that he gave up when he found that the Moline officials were tightening a web of guilt about him. He is charged with stealing an automobile valued at three thousand dollars from T. F. Wharton, one of the officials of the Deere Harvesting company at Moline. The automobile was stolen on the night of Saturday, May 22. The machine was recovered at Farmington, Ill., some days later and efforts had been made to repaint to prevent its being identified. Smith gave bonds of $1,500 following his arrest and he was held to the September grand jury.

LouRugani
LouRugani on July 1, 2014 at 1:24 am

(Motion Picture World, July-September 1911) Kenosha, Wis. — The Orpheum was damaged to the extent of $5,000 by fire. The fire started just after a crowd of people had left.

LouRugani
LouRugani on April 28, 2016 at 2:22 am

Kenosha’s original ORPHEUM Theatre opened on Saturday, September 24, 1910 with May’s Pictures and Songs and a five-cent admission.

LouRugani
LouRugani on August 12, 2020 at 9:41 pm

(January 13, 1920)– Union Dye Works Regain Lease on Blue Mill Theatre Building and Start $45000 Addition – LARGE ADDITION FOR UNION DYE – Cleaning and Dyeing Co to Erect Big Building Adjoining Their Present Quarters to Make Room for Their Growing Business ……… Announcement was made this morning by Louis and Morris Plous, the proprietors of the Union Dye Works, that they had secured from the Collins Amusement Company the lease for the building formerly known as the Blue Mill Theatre and that the building would be remodeled immediately as a large addition to the present quarters of the Union Dye Company. Two stories will be added to the present structure and this with the purchase of new equipment for the building will cost in the neighborhood of $45,000. Work was started this morning in dismantling the Blue Mill Theatre to make way for the new addition. The entire interior of the theatre was torn out today and as soon as the work advances far enough the front will be torn out to be replaced by one similar to the front of the present quarters of the Union Dye Company. Work will be rushed on the addition by Contractor Otto Windorf in an attempt to complete the building by the first of March to have it in readiness for the spring business of the company. Louis Plous, one of the owners of the Union Dye Company in explaining the plans for the- new addition, declared that the business of the company had long outgrown its present quarters and that the company had long sought to secure the present site for their new building. The mail order business of the company has increased by leaps and bounds and the new addition will be turned over largely for the handling of this business. There will also be quartered in the new building a complete dyeing department which will leave more room in the present building of the company for its cleaning establishment. Contracts have also been let by the company for a large amount of new machinery which will make the plant one of the most complete cleaning and dyeing institutions of the kind in Wisconsin. The addition will cause the addition of a large number of employees to the pay-roll of the company, bringing the total above seventy-five. The transaction closed this morning marks the passing of the Blue Mill Theatre, one of Kenosha’s best known film houses. The building was built by the Plous Brothers several years ago and has been leased and managed for several years by the Collins Amusement Company in connection with the management of the Burke Theatre. During this time it has showed many of the film successes of the country and has been one of the most popular playhouses of the city. (Kenosha Evening News)

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