In last week’s NWFF Digest, I asked if anyone knew how many Seattle theaters exclusively bore the Orpheum name?
Well, no one got the answer spot-on. A few were close, but here is the complete answer (courtesy of David Jeffers):
Any discussion of Variety Theater and Vaudeville in American history must certainly include the name Orpheum. It is virtually synonymous with the mixed-program “clean” houses, which began in the nineteenth century musichall and ended in the twentieth century moviehouse. Orpheum was everywhere, from coast to coast, and Seattle was no exception. Over the years, six Seattle theaters bore the Orpheum name exclusively.
#1 200 2nd Avenue
Back in the day, our forefathers kept the seedier parts of society, theaters, saloons and “social clubs” south of Yesler. This box-house on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Washington operated as The Orpheum from 1896-1900.
#2 1010 2nd Avenue
Located on the east side of Second Avenue between Madison and Seneca, this diminutive vaudeville theater operated as The Orpheum 1904-1908.
#3 500 3rd Avenue
Mention The Coliseum Theater to most Seattle residents and they are quick to respond, “Banana Republic.” The first Coliseum was in fact located on the southeast corner of 3rd and James. Cornerstones of early Seattle theater, Sullivan and Considine opened this vaudeville house in 1907, which was re-named Orpheum 1908-1911, and closed for good in 1913.
#4 919 3rd Avenue
Another Sullivan and Considine establishment, this Orpheum opened in 1911. Owners changed and the name moved in 1923. The theater on the southwest corner of 3rd and Madison was boarded for years and served as a USO during WWII before it was razed in 1954 for a car park. The side street entrance was located at 217 Madison.
#5 1932 2nd Avenue
Seattle’s grand lady of theaters, John Cort’s palace on the southeast corner of 2nd and Virginia opened December 28, 1907, and was home to Orpheum Vaudeville for a number of years before Moore was dropped from the name 1923-1927. Along with the Moore Hotel which surrounds it, The Moore Theater is the sole survivor from this list.
#6 504 or 506 Stewart Street
The last hurrah for Orpheum in Seattle was the grand palace designed by B. Marcus Priteca at 5th and Westlake. This theater opened as The New Orpheum on August 28, 1927 and survived the demise of vaudeville a few years later. Operating as a movie theater and concert hall for most of its existence, this spectacular Spanish Renaissance tribute to the height of movie palace opulence was demolished in 1967 to make way for the Washington Plaza (Weston) Hotel.
Information for this chronology was obtained from the following sources: