Orpheum Theatre Sioux City
The Sioux City Orpheum was designed by the nationally known Chicago firm of Rapp & Rapp and constructed in 1927 as part of the Orpheum Circuit. The major builder for the theatre was local Sioux City businessman, Arthur Sanford. It was one of the largest theatres in Iowa at its time and was certainly somewhat of a risk financially for Mr. Sanford, with a total construction cost of 1.75 million. This once opulent vaudeville and moving picture house boasted a large 2,650 seat, three story auditorium complete with Wurlitzer pipe organ, half circle boxes, hand carved detailing, gilded ornamentation, several crystal chandeliers and a hand painted ceiling. Throughout the years, the Orpheum was used for symphony performances, ballet and special attractions and hosted entertainers such as Fred Astaire, Tallulah Bankhead, and Katherine Hepburn.
In the 1970's and 80's the Orpheum was remodeled and turned into a one-story movie house with fluorescent light fixtures and a projection booth carved into what was once the mezzanine balcony. Later it was split into a two-screen theater. The wings of the balcony were cut off, the half circle boxes were removed, and the chandeliers and fine architectural detailing were covered over with false ceilings. The building was closed to the public in 1992.
In 1989 a nonprofit organization, the Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project, Ltd. (OTPP), was established for the purpose of pursuing the fund raising necessary to renovate and reopen the theatre. The Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project was involved with the acquisition of the theatre building, renovating and remodeling of the interior and exterior, and the establishment of an endowment fund. The total cost of the project was approximately $12 million, with funding from grants, foundations and private donations.
OTPP began the restoration process in 1999, with architects and theatre experts from FEH here in Sioux City, and theatre restoration expert Ray Sheppardson from GSI Architects in Cleveland, OH. The building was restored by a restoration team of local and nationally prominent professionals including Glover Painting, Sioux City, Iowa; Holtze Construction Company, Sioux City, Iowa; Evergreen Painting Studios, New York, New York; New Metal Crafts, Chicago, Illinois; and Tiffin Scenic Studios, Inc., Tiffin, Ohio.
The few surviving crystal chandeliers, light fixtures and lighting devises were meticulously restored. The missing ones were replaced with exact replicas or period appropriate antiques and reproductions. The aluminum entrance doors were replaced with historically appropriate African mahogany doors. All of the terrazzo baseboards and mahogany handrails were stripped and their finishes restored. The original drapes and fabric wall coverings were reproduced in both the grand lobby and the auditorium. The original carpet was carefully replicated and installed throughout the theatre. The original ornate terra cotta drinking fountains were replicated from the original drawings and returned to their prominent positions. The balcony and side boxes were replaced using original drawings and available photographs.
The heavy, post historic stucco material was stripped off the walls. The flat wall and ceiling surfaces were skim coated and restored. Molds were..
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