Orpheum Theatre

19-21 Seventh Street West,
St. Paul, MN 55102

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1927 Theater program (Back)

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This theater opened in 1916 as the New Palace Theatre and could seat 3,000. It was built on the site of the old St. Paul Public Library which burned down a couple years earlier. The architects were Henry Orth and Charles Buechner and the Palace Theatre was part of the Finkelstein & Ruben circuit.

Opening day newspaper advertisements gushed about the “New Palace” calling it, “The Show Spot of St. Paul”, “St. Paul’s Own Palace Beautiful” and “A Delight to the Artistic Eye”. Finkelstein & Ruben supposedly told their architects that they wanted the Palace Theatre to resemble a theater they saw and liked in Buffalo, New York, the Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre.

In 1922, the name of the theater was changed to the Palace-Orpheum Theatre after it became part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. However, three years later, when vaudeville was dropped in favor of movies only, the name became simply the Orpheum Theatre (later the RKO Orpheum).

In the 1940’s, RKO remodeled the Orpheum Theatre, including a new lobby, facade and signage and greatly reduced seating (to 1,400). Twelve years later, Ted Mann purchased the theater from RKO. First run films ended at the Orpheum Theatre in 1977. For a few years, the theater was open sporadically showing classic films, but closed permanently in 1984.

The historic theater — once a prominent spot for nightlife in the city of St. Paul — stands today in disrepair and its future remains uncertain.

In November 2013, it was announced that a £12 million renovation was planned to convert the Orpheum Theatre into a live music venue.

Contributed by Chris Clay, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

teecee on March 10, 2005 at 12:26 pm

Numerous old photos at this link:
View link

KJB2012 on June 29, 2007 at 2:08 pm

I toured the Palace-Orpheum about a year ago. There is some talk in St. Paul of bringing it back to life. In the early 2000s, the new owners fixed up the lobby, where a play was present “Finan’s Wake” I believe. The auditorium remains locked up. But the new owner has put up and lit a flag with the name “Palace” bringing the house back to it’s beginings in 1916.
As always it’s a question of money. It’ll cost a few million just to bring it up to usable state. A full restoration would be a mim of $10 million I would think. The big question can St. Paul support another large theatre?

KJB2012 on August 18, 2007 at 11:00 am

It seems the mayor is behind a move to convert this house into a rock venue along the lines of First Ave in Minneapolis.

LuisV on January 7, 2008 at 7:17 am

The intro says that this theater was remodeled in the 1940’s (auditorium and lobby) but there is no mention of the style or quality of the work. Would a renovation take the theater back to the way it was on opening day or from the 1940’s? I would assume it would be cheaper to get it back to the condition at it’s “modernization”.

KJB2012 on January 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

Whilst it would great to see the house fully restored to its 1916 glory, I expect that due to the cost it will (if ever) be re-done back to the 1940s style. Nevertheless, bringing it back to life will be great for downtown St. Paul.

markp on March 24, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Bringing ANY theatre left in a downtown area would bring life back to these ares.

TLSLOEWS on November 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Cool pictures, not many downtown theatres left anywhere.

spectrum on April 5, 2011 at 8:35 am

The photos referenced in TC’s 2005 link above appear to have been done right after the 1940s renovation. They are all dated 1943, and everything looks all freshened up. The good news is the original decor is almost completely intact – just a few minor art deco touches here and there (movie poster cases in the lobby, etc.)

The auditorium photo is intriguing – it looks like there are about 1,800 seats there (the description says 1,400 after the renovation). I can’t figure how the auditorium could have originally held 3,000 – unless there was a 2nd balcony that was completely removed during the renovation.

mnghost on April 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm

does anyone know who is the current owners of the palace and how to get a hold of them?

mfrestedt on October 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm

This place is being revived as music venue: http://blog.thecurrent.org/2013/10/st-paul-plans-to-renovate-and-reopen-historic-palace-theater/

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