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Clanmother The Orpheum Thursday Doors Vancouver

At the Orpheum

The Vancouver Orpheum opened its doors on November 8, 1927. Ah, it was a grand building, the largest theatre in Canada at the time, with a construction price tag of $1.25 million. Three thousand seats awaited an audience eager to see the interior of the much-awaited theatre.

The Orpheum Doors (An Inside Perspective)

Buildings have biographies and encounter transitions that reflect our ever-changing societies. Would it surprise you to know that the Vancouver Orpheum was launched as a vaudeville house? The vaudeville that became popular in North America from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, was similar to the music halls of Victorian Britain.

When the voices and acts of vaudeville’s singers, dancers, comedians and magicians fell silent in the late 1930’s, the Orpheum became a movie house, under the Famous Players name.

The crisis occurred in 1973.

In 1973, Famous Players made a financial decision that would change the course of our beloved Orpheum’s history. The Orpheum was scheduled for a major upgrade to a multiplex. The magnificent interior was to be gutted. The public protest was heard across Vancouver and beyond. Even Jack Benny made an emotional appearance.

The Orpheum was saved.

The City of Vancouver bought the Orpheum and closed the theatre on November 23, 1975 to complete a full restoration. April 2, 1977 the Orpheum was reopened and is now the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, in 1979, the Orpheum was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

During December a few years ago, our family attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah. After the crowds dispersed, I stayed behind to capture a few photos to celebrate the history of this noble building and all those who came together to save its legacy for generations to come.

Come, join me on a short walk through a building that has graced Vancouver for nearly 100 years.

Welcome to Thursday Doors, a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link on Dan Antion’s blog post, No Facilities{ in the comments section, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

Thursday Doors – Poster by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

By Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

59 replies on “At the Orpheum”

Did you hear the music, Marina – especially The Hallelujah Chorus? I felt the energy soar to the dome and around us all. I am grateful for your company on this walk. Sending hugs!

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What a fantastic history, Liz! And to have the theatre open to a full house with The Merry Countess would have been the most wonderful way to inaugurate the building. The famous names reminds me of unforgettable time past – John Drew, Maude Adams, Otis Skinner, John Philip Sousa, Billie Burke, Fred and Adele Astaire, and Will Rogers. Many thanks for the link and for joining me at The Orpheum.

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I am delighted that you walked with me in the corridors of the Orpheum, Babsje. We were the last to leave so it was a great opportunity to take photos of the red and gold colours under the scintillating lights. When I heard about the Thursday Doors event, I did not think that I had enough doors in my digital photo album. I confess being surprised by how many doors were there. Perhaps it was a subconscious thought that suggests that doors are a symbol to a new adventure.

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Hi Rebecca. I’m so glad you had the good fortune to be last and the freedom to create such a loving video. The music was perfect and you’re right that doors are a portal into new adventures.

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I think it was touch and go whether the Orpheum would be saved, but when there was strong public support, Vancouver City Council listened. Now, it is a place that provides a wonderful place to celebrate arts and cultural events.

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The idea of re-purposement is something that I have considered of late, Peggy, even in my home. Rather than throw away, why not repair. I often hear that it is less costly to tear down and rebuild than to renovate older buildings. But I believe that now planning departments are including the cost of losing history and cultural value in their mathematical strategies and cost structures.

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My husband can fix anything. He is constantly working on things around our house and refurbishing them. Saves a lot of money. I know building costs are very high these days, but saving old buildingds is well worth the cost.

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Many thanks Peter for joining me at the Orpheum. It is a lovely building and am grateful the the City chose to preserve the Orpheum. Lately there has been considerable interest in revitalization of older buildings.

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Oh my goodness, Rebecca, this is such a wonderful story and a beautiful structure. I am so glad to see that it was saved at the last minute. I loved the tour, photos and video.Thank you so much for joining Thursday Doors.

BTW, you linked to the wrong post, but I added this into the current one.

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Thank you, Dan, for taking care of me. I do get confused with the links. I will continue to persevere. Thursday Doors has been an excellent way to recall wonderful memories and locations. I never knew how many doors I had in my digital photo album, until I met up with the idea of Thursday Doors. To me, doors symbolize possibilities. Remember those TV game shows that asked the contestants to chose Door # 1 #2 or #3.?

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I do remember, Rebecca. No grand prizes here, but no booby prizes either. I have been organizing old photos and I do have a lot of doors in there. I know I like the ones you’ve been sharing with us.

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Simply gorgeous, I’m so glad to hear it’s going to be around for many years to come! I have such fond memories of my parents taking me to concerts and operas as I was growing up, I hope many generations to come will have similar opportunities to create lasting memories!

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Many thanks for stopping by and sharing a moment at the Orpheum. We were the last ones out that night, have our last conversation with the lovely people who arrange these events. I share your thought on creating lasting memories. Memories of my childhood sustain me long after the passing of those who made those memories possible. May we continue to create those lasting memories for those who follow us.

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I share your love of these buildings. The Orpheum was originally designed by Scottish architect Marcus Priteca (born in Glasgow) who was best known for designing theaters for Alexander Pantages, the Greek American vaudeville impresario and early motion picture producer.

Marcus also designed the Coliseum in Seattle, the Pantages in Tacoma and Los Angeles, San Diego…. And the list goes on and on…

He was also known for his ability to create the appearance of opulences within a les-than-opulent budget.

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What a splendid building, Rebecca, and many thanks for having taken me on this sightseeing tour! Unfortunately I am not very much in a blogging mood, because of my husband’s health! You can cancel my comment, I just wanted to let you know.

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A beautiful building with a wonderful history, Rebecca.
We have so much in common. Over this week we, Keith and I, visited the state of Victoria; namely its capital, Melbourne. There, at the Princess Theatre, we saw ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ – two years later than originally planned, due to the pandemic!
I couldn’t help but see the similarities of our cities and their venues, once again. We are so blessed to enjoy the fruits of those who have gone before us. Their decisions and investments in the arts make for wonderful moments for us all.

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After I read your comments, I made a fast virtual trip to Melbourne. What a brilliant place to visit/live! I found out that Melbourne was originally name Batmania and has the highest number of restaurants and cafes per number of people than any other city in the world. It always has the largest tram system outside of Europe and the fourth largest in the world overall. Like Vancouver, Melbourne is known for its unpredictable weather, but alike Vancouver, it is often possible to experience four season in one day.

One day I will meet up with you at The Princess Theatre. Wouldn’t that be fabulous.

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Hahah… I’m so pleased it was renamed..
Yes, Rebecca, Melbourne is wonderful in so many ways. I adore its European feel with entertainment galore. There is so much to do in this beautiful culturally diverse city. You, I know, would love it.
Such delights!

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I just realised you gave the English spelling of the word ‘theater’. For that I give you eleven out of ten for commitment to detail. Hahah… You are wonderful, my friend. And yes, I would love to meet up with you ‘anywhere’, but particularly in Melbourne!
xoxoxo

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Ich freue mich, dass Sie heute mit mir das Orpheum besucht haben. Ich liebe die Eleganz und Geschichte von Gebäuden der Vergangenheit. Liebe Grüße über den großen Teich senden.

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Many thanks Alaedin for joining me at The Orpheum for commenting. I especially appreciate the ceiling mural. It was painted in the winter of 1975-76 or 24 large canvas panels that were shipped from Los Angeles to Vancouver before being glued to the dome. The originally restoration budget did not account for a mural but the artist, Tony Heinsbergen fought for what would be come the Orpheum’s signature detail.

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Wow, what a spectacular place! A palace more than a place.
I’m thrilled it was saved.
Thank you for the video tour, Rebecca!

Isn’t it the way of corporations. Rip out the beauty & culture and replace it with a money making prospect. How short sighted the profiteers are. Now, a National Historic Site of Canada.
{{{hugs}}}

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I am so glad you joined me at The Orpheum, Resa. When I was viewing the photos, I remember a time when we would never have thought that we would be wearing masks and sitting so far apart from everyone. Buildings like the Orpheum have witnessed the momentous events. I grieve when their stories are lost and enveloped into the folds of history. Sending many hugs back your way.

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I am glad that you joined me at The Orpheum, where music flows though the many doors of this building. What I most appreciate at Thursday Doors is that it reminds me of all the doors that I have entered over the years. Many thanks for your visit and comments, Lavinia.

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Oh my gosh… a multiplex, seriously? What were they thinking? I’m so glad that the protests ended with the building being saved and restored. It’s part of history and its magic deserves to be enjoyed by future generations. It’s beautiful, Rebecca. Thank you for the tour.

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Thank you for joining me at the Orpheum. Did you hear the Hallelujah Chorus through the screen? I am looking forward to hearing the Messiah this coming December. I love when you used the word “magic” for that is exactly what it is, Diana!

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I have so many wonderful memories of this fabulous place. I have seen the most amazing performances here. like Harry Belafonte, The Chieftains, Loreena McKennitt, Peter, Paul and Mary and so many more. And my daughter´s high school graduation was held at The Orpheum!! Thanks so much as these great memories came flooding back. 😃❤

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What wonderful memories Darlene! The Orpheum is even more special now that I know that your daughter’s high school graduation ceremonies were held there. I remember meeting Lorena McKennitt many many many years ago when she was busking at Granville Island market, when it first opened. I think it was one time when she was passing through. Don and I were in the top seating area when we heard this clear, distinctive Celtic voice coming from somewhere in the market. I remember Don saying, that voice will be known one day. I read her background and found that she was from Morden, Manitoba. Love Prairie stories.

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Thank you for your visit and comments, Rudi. Very much appreciated. I am glad that they preserved the Orpheum, too! Every building has a story and leaves memories for those who have entered its door. I especially appreciated the photos on the walls featuring musician, singers, conductors that had performed on stage.

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