61 Van Houten Street,
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This theater is on Van Houten Street, off of Main Avenue in downtown Paterson opened as the Orpheum Theater on August 17, 1912. You can tell from the shape of the exterior that it was a theater, with the tell-tale stage housing at the back of the building.
The most unique aspect of the facade is a fading sign on the side wall which says “Orpheum Theater – Classy and Refined Burlesque”. It also says something about special matinees, but it’s been a while since I saw it. (Uncle Floyd, a local celebrity and comedy historian, told me an interesting story. As a youngster, he spent lots of time in downtown Paterson throughout the 1960’s. One time when he passed the theater, he found boxes of old photographs in the garbage outside the building. They were original publicity photos of the acts that had played the Orpheum in the 20’s and 30’s. Among them were Joe Besser, Sydney Fields and Lou Costello.)
They were working on the interior last year, and I walked in and spoke with one of the workers. We were in the space that would have been the stage, and you can’t tell from the inside that it had been a theater. All of the walls were sheet-rocked and a drop ceiling was in place. Apparently, for many years, it was used as a store. The worker had no idea it had been a theater, and it was being converted for new use as a mosque.
I’m willing to bet that the ornamentation is still intact, and is sitting behind those new walls and ceiling. The worker wasn’t very cordial, so I didn’t stick around or try to explore.
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