28 September, 2009

The Roberts Orpheum Theater ... My World August 2009

The Orpheum Theater was constructed at the corner of 9 th Street and St. Charles in 1917 by St. Louis self-made millionaire Louis A. Cella. The lead architect was Albert Lansburgh, and artist Leo Lentelli was responsible for the ornate sculptures that are still magnificent today. Lansburgh had already designed seven previous theaters for the Orpheum franchise. Lentelli had began working in Rome in the early part of the twentieth century before moving to New York City where his works were commissioned for many projects, including Rockefeller Center. Please click on photographs to enlarge.

When it joined the more than two dozen theaters of the national "Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit" on its Labor Day opening, the $500,000 "Parisian style" theater was considered an "architectural masterpiece and technological wonder."

With the end of vaudeville in the mid 1930s, the theater was leased to Warner Brothers as a movie house, and subsequently Loews assumed its management. In the 1960s it underwent a reincarnation as a performance venue and was re-christened The American Theater.


The venue has played host to a vast array of entertainment , including plays, musicals, and concerts. Many of the great names in American theater graced its stage in the, including Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, Julie Harris, Cary Grant, Eartha Kit, James Whitmore, Eli Wallach, Liv Ullman, John Gielgud, Paul Robeson, Mae West, and Henry Fonda, to name just a few.

In the early 1980s, The American became primarily a venue for special events (corporate events, weddings, and private parties) and occasional rock concerts. Acts such as Pearl Jam (who filmed a video in the theater), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keyes, Dave Mathews Band, Tori Amos, and Nelly appeared on stage.

Then, in December, 2003, St. Louisians Mike and Steve Roberts purchased the theater from Charles Cella, grandson of the visionary who built it. They undertook a major rehabilitation of the theater, bringing it back to its former splendor. Reverting to the original name, The Roberts Orpheum Theater returned to full operation to host a wide variety of events including concerts, theater, dance, lectures, and movies, as well as corporate events, conferences, and private parties.

I will have to add that I loved downtown Saint Louis. It was a visual delight and I am so wanting to return and walk it block by block and photograph it all. It was compact and full of amazing architectural details. Our hotel was located around the corner and down a couple of blocks from The Orpheum.

Please do stop by and take a peek at other participants My World submissions this week by clicking MY WORLD . I so like seeing what everyone else is up to around the world.

38 comments:

Carver said...

This was a very interesting article about the theatre and I enjoyed the photographs too. I've never been there but have heard it's a great space.

Stine said...

Amazing how architects designed theatres way back then!

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous photos and such wonderful history! Really does look like a fascinating place! Would love to see it myself!

Have a great week!

Sylvia

Postcards from Wildwood said...

Such a beautiful building. It looks so grand and large until the last shot, when we see it has been dwarfed by later buildings. So pleased to hear it has been returned to its former glory.
Janice.

Postcards from Wildwood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nadia said...

I really like the "glow" in your photographs ... it gives this dreamy look that goes beautifully with your post.

Thank you for sharing

Mojo said...

Sort of reminds me of the Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY. A monument to excess.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for the interesting post and the photos of this beautiful classical building. It's still in very great condition, by the looks of it! Thanks also for your visit!

James said...

Your photos are wonderful as always. Somehow I missed your last post, but I think it's awesome!

Your header is great too.

I love it!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Erin: That is such a wonderful place to see.

J said...

I love the contrast between the sandy stone and the red doors - almost as if designed for photographers!

Babooshka said...

Sometimes I do miss the whirl of the city and choice. That's what came through to me. Made me long for a city weekend again.

Jack and Joann said...

Glad you liked St. Louis. It has some cool spots. Hope you did the Gateway Arch too.

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful building with so much history, thanks for sharing the theatre and your world.

Ebie said...

The architecture and the design is so intricate. Your shots are lovely. I miss your posts, I am glad you are back sharing your side of the world.

susieofarabia said...

Great post for MyWorld, Erin. Such big name entertainers suitable for such a grand looking place! Love the statue of the woman (2nd photo) - it's gorgeous!

Tabib said...

Thanks for posting this great architecture.

Photo Cache said...

What an interesting post complete with beautiful and artistic photographs.

Lew said...

It's great that they restored the theater to its original purpose! I also like your post on the arch.

Island Rambles Blog said...

I really enjoyed this post and your pictures are so lovely...nice historical piece.

Della said...

Thank you for an interesting post. Your world looks very different from mine.

Lawstude said...

i love how you feature each shot with soft focusing and some sepia. great job.

Irene said...

Historic theatre, thanks for showing your beautiful photos.

LadyFi said...

Such dreamy shots about an interesting building.

magiceye said...

a visual delight indeed!

Wolynski said...

The Orpheum circuit was big in vaudeville days - glad to see they've restored a flagship theater. Wonderful photos.

Arija said...

What a lovely theatre and how splendid that it has survived to come to life again.

Pam said...

The architecture is beautiful. It also has quite a long and wonderful history. Its nice that it has been preserved and still in use.
Marvelous photos and history, Denise.
Pam :)

Daryl said...

What an interesting history and such neat photos .. thanks for sharing!

George said...

I don't think there are many buildings more grand than these old theaters. I'm glad to learn that it was renovated and given a new lease on life.

Gill - That British Woman said...

great photos, as always and super detail.....

Gill in Canada

Annie said...

Wonderful place..and photos to match of course!

Thanks for this Erin, and for your meticulous research into the history too.

And thank you for taking the time to visit my world at the botanic gardens also!

SandyCarlson said...

These are wonderful, romantic shots.

Ann said...

I like old cities. I like Robert Frost's poem, the road not taken.

Architects in the past have style.

Thanks for visitng.

Janie said...

Beautiful photos and history of this old theatre. Nice tour!

Carolyn Burke said...

Welcome to Saint Louis. The Roberts Orpheum has a long way to go before being totally restored. With the economy the way it is, the process will be s-l-o-w, but well worth it.

Carolyn Burke
Event Location Service

Rob Inukshuk said...

Great captures of a wonderful old building and some of it's features. Interesting history too as have many old buildings.

Merisi said...

Your images and posts make me truly regret not having visited St. Louis (yet!).