Minski's Columbia Theatre

147 O'Farrell Street,
San Francisco, CA 94108

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GaryParks on February 26, 2016 at 9:15 am

The name Minski’s should certainly be removed from the title of this theatre’s page, as—according to the history researched by Joe Vogel, the Minski name was only applied to the theatre for one year.

GaryParks on February 26, 2016 at 9:11 am

A significant correction is needed to this theatre’s description. It needs to be listed as the ORPHEUM. That was its original name when built, and the moniker it operated under for over twenty years. Its time as the COLUMBIA was a mere 8 years, beginning in 1930. Joe Vogel’s comments and research above do bring up an interesting question about the Minski vs. Minsky spelling.

bobdickson on March 19, 2011 at 9:48 am

The AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills has over fifty images of this theatre, including construction, in its B'hend and Kaufmann Collection. E-mail:

TLSLOEWS on March 19, 2011 at 6:33 am

Thanks for all the links Joe.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 19, 2011 at 4:00 am

I’ve found two photos of the third Orpheum at Google Books, both showing only the front. I don’t think either of them are in the San Francisco Public Library’s digital collection.

Page 13 of this 1912 book has a medium-close photo of the Orpheum’s entrance, showing the elaborate detail of the marquee.

Page 22 of this 1912 volume of Architectural Record has a front-on view of the theater’s facade (the caption missnames Lansburgh as Landsberger.)

A 1909 issue of The Architect and Engineer has an article about the Orpheum’s ventilation systems. No pictures, but it provides a rather thorough description of the structure’s “lungs.”

Another 1912 book has a brief biography of Lansburgh, though it only mentions the Orpheum in passing.

The Orpheum is mentioned in quite a few other public domain books that can be read at Google Books (at least in the U.S.– some books are blocked in other countries) but they don’t give many details, and I’ve found no other photos in any of those I’ve looked into.

The Orpheum was designed while Lansburgh was still part of the firm of Lansburgh & Joseph, in partnership with architect Bernard Julius Joseph.

The name Minski is puzzling me. The famous New York City burlesque king was named Minsky. Was some San Franciscan actually named Minski, or was the operator just trying to associate his theatre with Minsky’s in the public mind, while trying to avoid getting sued by the actual Minsky?

The only other place on the Internet I can find the name Minski’s Columbia Theatre is this page (scroll way down to reach the O'Farrell Street section,) which gives a different name history for the house than the one in the description above:[quote]“Orpheum 1909-1929 – designed by G. Albert Lansburgh
Orpheum Theatre
Columbia 1930
Erlanger’s Columbia 1931-1934
Minski’s Columbia 1935
Columbia 1936-1937”[/quote]The page is unsigned, but says “The information on this list was compiled from vertical files in the Art and Music Center of the San Francisco Public Library, city directories, motion picture directories, daily papers, and the very meticulous research of Jack Tillmany.”