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Location DB > United States > Massachusetts > New Bedford > The Orpheum
The Orpheum
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 Database Info
created by blitz on 10/30/2007 1:19 PM
last modified by blitz on 10/30/2007 2:22 PM
Publically Viewable Publically Viewable
This location has been labeled by its creator as Public, and therefore can be viewed by anyone.
Old theatre thats been empty for like 50 years.
 Basic Information
Type: Building
Status: Abandoned
Accessibility: Difficult
Recommendation: worth the trip
 Physical Information

New Bedford, Massachusetts
United States
  • asbestos
  • rust
  • unsafe flooring
  • Locked Doors
  •  Interesting Features

     Security Measures
  • part-time guard
  • 24 hour guard
  • locked gates
  • wooden boarding
  •  Historical Dates
    Built: 1912
    Closed: 1958
     Required Equipment
  • flashlight
  • gloves
  • long pants / sleeves
  •  Recommended Equipment
    A will not to get caught.
    The Orpheum opened on April 15th, 1912 at a very important time in American history. Little did the people know at the ”Grand Opening” that the Titanic would sink on that same night. This was just before World War I, when the City’s mills were busy, the economy was good even though the whaling industry was slowly declining.

    The Orpheum was constructed under the ownership of The French Sharpshooter’s Club of New Bedford. This esteemed group operated a ballroom and armored shooting range in the building for nearly fifty years. Le Club des Francs-Tireurs had many events such as dances, benefits, and shooting tournaments. The Club was instrumental in raising and training recruits for both World Wars. The theatre was leased from the Sharpshooter’s to the Orpheum Circuit of Boston.

    The Orpheum circuit was one of the largest vaudeville and variety franchises operating in the country. Founded by Martin Beck who discovered such stars as Houdini, Eddy Foy, Lili Langtry, and The Marx Brothers. The Orpheum circuit was in large part responsible for making vaudeville a more respected art form. before this time most shows were made for a mostly male audience, i.e.Wild West shows with dancing girls. Martin Beck turned it around to appeal to the “decent woman.” Many Orpheum theatres were richly decorated to copy the fancy Parisian opera houses. The theatre quickly became a place people went to see, or be seen.

    The Orpheum not only presented stage shows, but they were great innovators in the motion picture industry. They would show movies, then named photoplays, inbetween acts. As the popularity for Vaudeville waned in the 1920’s, the motion picture industry was there to take it’s place and keep crowds packing in. The Orpheum Circuit had many mergers over the years and eventually became Radio-Keith-Orpheum, the RKO famous for films like “King Kong” and “Citizen Kane”. There were over 400 Orpheum linked theaters nationally. The ol Oí dest Orpheum Theater still operating is now called the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles. It opened on June 6th, 1911. New Bedford’s Orpheum opened one year later, and appears to be the second oldest in the country.

    The New Bedford Orpheum’s location in the neighborhood was central to the community. Water Streert was completely lined with shops and stores integral to the adjoining neighborhoods. There was a busy trolley that ushered the residents from their homes to the mills, or the many other destinations. The theatre was a place many came to hear the latest events on the newsreels, or to catch up on the latest gossip. This area of Water Street was one of the City’s most diverse, being so close to the mills where many worked, it attracted many distinct ethnic groups. There were large pockets of French, Irish, Jewish, Hispanic, Polish, and Portuguese woven in to a strong community.

    Right up to the time it closed the Orpheum was popular for it’s 25¢ matinees. There was another Theater that was destroyed right next to the Orpheum called the “Royal Theater”. There were actually 24 theaters in the city, now the only one still open is the Zeiterion

     Media Coverage

     Future Plans

    Orpheum Theatre and Sharpshooters Hall on South Water Street in New Bedford are being opened to the public
    for the first time since the 1970's. The Rope Light Tour is being planned to show the theater and the big
    ballroom in the building with the six terra cotta muses and boarded-up windows alongside Route 18 in the
    South End.

    The organization known as Orpheum Rising Project Helpers is seeking non profit status in hopes of restoring it
    as a performing arts center. O.R.P.H., Inc. is planning to have the 1912 building open on Sunday, October 7th
    for a limited number of visitors from 2 to5 PM.
    The walkway for the brief tour will be arranged through the lobby and some stairways, to the aisles of the theatre, and will allow a look at the balcony and two ballrooms. Members of O.R.P.H., Inc. will escort groups of
    guests and tell about the building. It’s people, history and architecture.

    The Orpheum Theatre was built and operated by Le Club Francs-Tireurs (Club of French Sharpshooters), a
    men’s benevolent organization. The building and association played a large role in early twentieth century history of New Bedford.

    On that Sunday afternoon, ORPH will also host a sidewalk conversation with presentation of photographs and memorabilia. Additional participants are welcome.
    This event is being co-sponsored by the Community Building Mini-Grants Program of the United Way of
    Greater New Bedford, with assistance of the City of New Bedford and the cooperation of Central Foods Market.
    A ten dollar donation is requested to attend the tour. Membership in Orpheum Rising Project Helpers is invited.
    The theatre is not presently handicap accessible.


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     Photo Galleries
    Click to view gallery
    October 2007
    Tue, Oct 30th, 2007
    posted by blitz
    9 pictures
    Click to view gallery
    August 2007
    Tue, Oct 30th, 2007
    posted by blitz
    17 pictures

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     Moderator Rating
    The moderator rating is a neutral rating of the content quality, photography, and coolness of this location.

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    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Emperor Wang on 11/2/2007 7:47 PM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Nov 2 07 at 19:47, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:30, blitz updated the main picture
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:29, blitz made this location available
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:28, blitz added some pictures to a gallery
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:28, blitz added some pictures to a gallery
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:27, blitz created a new gallery
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:26, blitz updated gallery October 2007
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:24, blitz swapped pictures 3 and 6
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:24, blitz swapped pictures 2 and 3
  • on Oct 30 07 at 14:24, blitz swapped pictures 0 and 2
  •  Forum Threads about this Location
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    You must log in for this feature to work.New Bedford Orpheum Photos from June 19th, 2010TrigPhotography021778/25/2010 1:01 PM by TrigPhotography
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