The Orpheum Theater (1965)

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38 Comments

  1. Scott:

    Interesting that no one has yet shared any memories of the Orpheum here, the building whose loss is probably the most lamented of all the lost buildings in Springfield. This theatre could have served as a catalyst for bringing vitality back to downtown Springfield if it had been converted to a performing arts centre, rather than being destroyed for the bank’s drive up facility. Not to mention the enjoyment it could have brought to future generations. It’s amazing that this theatre only lasted 38 years.

  2. sue hoyt:

    What a special occasion it was to attend a Disney film at the Orpheum Theater. The orchestra pit, velvet draperies, ornate fixtures were worse for wear in the early 60’s but still it was a glamorous setting for a farm kid from Fancy Prairie. Fond memories but such a sad fate.

  3. Jim Bolinger:

    My sister and I used to walk from The Leland Hotel (where we grew up) to The Orpheum on many Saturdays to see Disney films. Our mother would also pick us up at grade school to attend matinée performances of the Springfield Symphony too. That theater was amazing and was very much a part of my young life. I watched it be demolished and to this day consider it a tragic loss. I remember trying to start a petition and closing my little savings account at the Illinois National Bank in protest. I was also fortunate to attend one of last movies there, an evening screening of Old Yeller and got to hear the Barton organ played in the theater for the last time.

  4. Giuseppe:

    Wow Jim! You have some Great memories! I wish that I had been there to see a movie at the Orpheum… It must have been an amazing experience to have grown up at the Leland, another Springfield Icon that I missed out on… You sound pretty amazing yourself Jim to have taken such initiative at a young age to try to save the Orpheum… You are to be admired!

  5. Denise Hagvall:

    Any chance anyone has interior photos of The Orpheum? In addition to all the aforementioned I remember an amazing chandelier and Lincoln murals across the top of the stage. I saw every Disney movie made up until 1965 there. I think it seated around 2500.

  6. Bill:

    Denise,
    They have some at the Sangamon County Archives, cuz I made some copies with my digital camera.

  7. Kathy:

    going to the Orpheum was a huge treat for me. I think there was a barber across the street? had great photos of men’s haircuts like “the butch”. I was a little girl sitting in the barber chair getting a Pixie cut and stars hairsprayed to the top of my head.

  8. Glen Rogers:

    I have many fond memories of the Orpheum Theatre. Me and my childhood friends(both boys & girls) went to the Orpheum Theatre every Sunday to see the movies and often listened to the live Theatre Organ Concerts on their Barton Organ. I was 10 years old on Sunday, December 7, 1941 and in the Orpheum Theatre when the Japanese Bombed Pearl Harbor which marked the beginning of the U.S. entry into World War II. The movie stopped, the lights were turned on, and the Theatre Manager Mr. Berman came on stage to announce the news. Then all during World War II I went to the Orpheum every weekend to watch newsreels about news of the war because there was no television in those days and that was the only way to see visual news about the war. My father entered the Army as a combat infantryman in General Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe and every Sunday while watching the newsreels at the Orpheum I hoped to catch a glimpse of my day……but never did. After the war ended in 1945 I recall going to the Orpheum for live musical entertainment on stage…..such as the Jan Garber Orchestra.

  9. mary graham:

    In response to no memories of the Orpheum Theatre. I remember my first opera, Madame Butterfly; Spike Jones (what a hoot). I remember viewing Oklahoma with my mother. Great memories.

  10. Mr Bollinger – I came to Springfeild two weeks ago there was man from Germany named Stanley Moskwa, staying at our hotel who your father had sponsored into this country after your Dad met him overseas during the war. He had come to town to visit your Dad’s grave and meet his family. DO you have a realitive named Ceclia? I understand Stanley lived and worked at the hotel.
    Can you please contact me. KC Schneider … ComicChaos@aol.com (469) 766 -1666

  11. Ivan Burnett:

    I worked at the Orpheum Theatre for Mr Berman and Mr Bower as an Usher in 1950 through 1952
    becoming 1st usher before quiting to work at the A&P store up the street, worked there and joined US Navy in 1953 during the Koren war.

  12. Alice Post:

    Dear Jim,
    I would like to hear from you and Tammy sometime. I think about you often. Ceil and I frequently speak about you at least once a year. I am glad your mother took you to the Orpheum. It was a wonderful place. I am listed in the telephone directory. Alice Post

  13. Marilyn:

    I left Springfield in 1959 but growing up in Sprfld. was a big part of my life. The Orpheum theater was a beautiful facility. I attended many of the Amateur Musical Concerts there and I would sit in the balcony and try to figure out how that beautiful chandelier could be cleaned so that it was returned to its sparkling best. It was a real tragedy when it was demolished. Sometimes what they call “progress” is certainly not.

  14. Tom Brockman:

    I was surprised to see the Pontiac convertable with the dented hood near the stoplight. I once owned that car.

  15. Bill Hall:

    There was, also, a pool hall in the lower level called Orpheum Billiards, where my father played pool. When they tore it all down, he bought, and I still own, a Brunswick pool table which shows a lot of wear and tear.

  16. DAVID HUGHES:

    I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS A KID IN HIGH SCHOOL GOING INTO THE ORPHEUM WHEN THEY WERE TAKING DOWN THE FIXTURES. I WAS LOOKING FOR THE ENTRANCE TO BOX SEATS, BUT NEVER FOUND THEM. AS I WALKED AROUND I COULD HEAR THE WORKERS TALKING ABOUT WHAT A SHAME IT WAS TO TEAR DOWN THE BUILDING. WHEN I WENT INTO THE DRESSING ROOMS AND STAGE AREA, I REMEMBER SEEING A LARGE CUTOUT OF A CHAMPAINE GLASS. I ALSO REMEMBER THE PAINTINGS OF OPERA SCENES THAT WERE HIDDEN BEHIND THE SODA MACHINES.

  17. Bill Thompson:

    I too fondly remember seeing many films at that gorgeous theater. Two of them were Ol’Yeller and Mary Poppins. Another memory was hearing the organist play that old organ that rose out of the orchestra pit in front of the stage. Unless there are none that remember, that organ was transferred to Springfield High School. It was there when I attended school there in the late 60’s. I wonder if it still is there. This was the last of the great theaters and the banks greed robbed all of us.

  18. Scott:

    The bank’s greed? It wasn’t the bank’s fault. There was no organized movement of any kind to save the theatre. And the Springfield community has never been known as preservation minded, evidenced by the multitude of parking lots downtown. The only way the Orpheum could have been saved is if the City had purchased it for use as some type of performance space, since it was no longer making money as a movie theatre. And in 1965 that wasn’t really happening yet. The first major conversion from movie palace to performing arts center was in 1966-67 when the St. Louis Theatre was converted to Powell Hall for the symphony there.

  19. Jim Bolinger:

    Dearest Alice, I have been unable to obtain your phone number or email address.

    KC Schneider, I will contact you, but feel free to do the same. My dad (James P. Bolinger) and grandmother (Cecilia Ann Bolinger) are not buried in Springfield and no family remains there.

    My email address is jimbolin@pacbell.net. I stopped regularly looking at this site since it was not updated for so long–it’s wonderful to have it back in action! As my hometown, Springfield was an important part of my life until we sold The Leland and moved away in January, 1970, when I was sixteen and a half. It saddens me greatly that the beautiful hotel was gutted and ruined and that The Orpheum (along with many other fine buildings) was needlessly destroyed. Springfield is much poorer because of it.

    Jim (James S.) Bolinger

  20. Jim Bolinger:

    Here’s a link to the State Journal-Register’s photoblog of The Orpheum: http://blogs.sj-r.com/behindthecurtain/index.php/2009/09/04/a-grand-dame-goes-down/#more-1791.

    I was very pleased when I found it. Note that the sidewalk barricade stated “Building for a Greater Springfield” on it. What a joke that was! Cleveland Wrecking Company was also highly disrespectful to Springfield when they kept changing the demolition jokes on the great marquee–I remember all of them and felt greatly insulted along with the pain of personally seeing the movie palace come down.

  21. Bobby:

    I worked at the Orpheum theater as an usher in 1958 and I also worked for Mr. Bower, when needed I would go downstairs and pop porcorn, nothing but fond memories of the Orpheum and the 50’s. . .

  22. Sally Field:

    My dad worked as an usher there in the 40s and had great stories. Too bad it didn’t stay. Sad…

  23. ed kienzler:

    I went to Chicago some years ago and got a free tour of the mighty Chicago Theatre (which had been fixed up) and could only think of the Orpheum-though I never stepped foot in the Orpheum-all I could was look at the CT’s entry way stare at the huge entry way and say to myself (low voiced of course) “the f—ing Orpheum”!!! (sorry I did say that, really!!!) God to have it back for one day-crummy parking lots!!!Crummy banks!!!

  24. Ed &Eleano:

    Eleanor & I had our first date at the rpheum
    still together after 60 years

  25. A very dumb idea to get rid of the Orpheum-can’t believe the Chicago Theater is still up and the inside looks like the Orpheum’s God Bless the brillant brains who thought that one up!!!-NOT!!!

  26. Rodney Wise:

    I literally owe my life to the Orpheum Theatre. My mother was working the candy counter when my dad sauntered in with some of his buddies. He was smitten by the candy counter girl and the rest, as they say, is history.

  27. julie:

    i was born & grew up in Springfield, and went weekly to the orpheum in the 40’s thru 1952 when I moved away. It was a magical experience I remeber it, and some of the movies I saw.

  28. Judith (Brower) Hampson:

    Nicholas Brower (my father) went to work at the Orpheum as assistant manager when I was five years old. I could walk under the brass rails in the outer lobby without bumping my head. One of the photographers from the State Journal/Register took pictures of the theater for my father before it was torn down. My mother made a scrap book and I still have it. I literally grew up in the Orpheum.
    We shed many tears when it was torn down.

  29. Nancy Kabat:

    Loved the Orpheum! I wish it still was a part of Springfield.

  30. Tom Watts:

    I was an usher at the Orpheum summer of 1953 to Jan 1954. I memorized the dialogue of several films…”Shane”, “Roman Holiday”, “The Bandwagon” and a few others. I am glad I wasn’t living in Springfield when they tore this beautiful cinema palace down. Other cities have saved their art deco theatres..mainly in the Pacific Northwest.

  31. Pat Ryan:

    Yes, we all regret the loss of such a beautiful theater, certainly the best of Springfield. I remember seeing “Psycho” there in 1960-61. Earlier, we used to sneak up to the many balconies, which were not open, and marvel at how many levels there were. I was no longer in Springfield when they tore it down. I believe the laws that didn’t allow banks to have branch offices had an effect on the bank needing more access to its building.

  32. Marilyn Copp:

    Every time I visit Springfield and drive south on 5th passing that bank building that usurped the spot of the Orpheum Theatre – i damn that bank. But mostly I damn the city fathers, mayor and council, and developers that, without vision, without a sense of history, beauty, fantasy – without a sense of quality and magic of the past – allowed this to happen. Small-minded greedy people – just a hand full – have the power to make these decisions never pay. They never suffer the humiliation of being exposed. I want to know who they were. Publish their names. Who were these few, these greedy few, that deprive all of us to this day of such magical memories. To us children the ORPHEUM THEATRE was our mirrored PALACE AT VERSAILLES – mirrors to the past, gone forever, smashed to pieces by those greedy little men with no vision. Who were they? I speak for all seven of the Copps.

  33. Carol Damhorst Janousek:

    I also grew up loving the Orpheum. Went to Blessed Sacrament School with John Patrick Berman whose father was the manager at the time. This would have been late 40’s to mid 50’s. He had an older brother Jay and a younger sister. Always felt it was shameful nothing was done to save it.

  34. John(Jack)Sweet:

    I remember my Aunt Grace taking me to the Orpheum to see Uncle Tom Cabin as a play. We sat in the peanut gallery. Those were the days.

  35. Barbara Wyeth:

    The Orpheum was a great loss, I will always maintain. Too bad the theatre didn’t last long enough to be valued as it would have these days, with the new museum/library and the interest in historic preservation.

  36. KHerndon:

    I saw many many movies at the Orpheum… But my favorites were the horror films!

  37. Susan:

    I felt like Cinderella when I went into that theater! It was just soooo elegant!

  38. C. Rhoades:

    I have only one memory of the orpheum. Surrounded by a covered plywood walkway with portholes cut into it. My dad stopped and lifted us to see the wrecking ball performing its “progress”.

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