Orpheum Theatre

197 S. Main St., Memphis, Tennessee

Restored movie house, now a live theater venue

Photos 

The original sign over the modern marquee

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in November 2019

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Map 

Street View 

Description 

The site was the original location of the Grand Opera House. The Grand Opera House changed its name to the Orpheum in 1907 when it became part of the Orpheum [Vaudeville] Circuite. It burned down in 1923 and was replaced by the "new" Orpheum (this one) in 1923.

The Orpheum was in danger of being demolished in the 1970s but the theater closed on Christmas 1982 and underwent a $5 million renovation and restoration. Many systems were updated to modern standards, seating was expanded, luxury suites were added, the stage was expanded, restrooms were updated and expanded, and the stage was enlarged.

A 1928 Wurlitzer theater organ is original to the theater, one of the few organs that remains in its original installation. The instrument has been restored and, as of this writing, is being reinstalled in the theater.

There is some credible evidence that The Orpheum has several spirits residing in the theater. Most famous is Mary, a 12 year old girl who apparently was in a trolley accident on Beale Street in 1921. The legend goes that she was carried into the theater where she died, but never left. Other stories say she died in the fire that demolished the Grand Opera Theater that stood on this site. Numerous sightings have been reported, and that she can sometimes be seen in her favorite seat in the mezanine, C-5. Mary seems to be a friendly and playful spirit, she reportedly sometimes plays the organ.

There are reportedly at least five more spirits who reside in the theater.

As Robert Ripley said, "Believe it or not."

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on August 15, 1977
Reference number
77001289
Architectural styles
Victorian: Renaissance; Other architectural type; Italian Renaissance
Areas of significance
Entertainment/Recreation; Architecture
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic function
Theater
Current function
Theater
Period of significance
1925-1949
Significant years
1927; 1928

Tags 

20th Century (29,076)
Brick (42,462)
Built 1927 (911)
Built during 1920s (8,294)
C.W. & George L. Rapp (2)
Granite (5,090)
Haunted (17)
Have Street View (46,305)
Memphis, Tennessee (153)
Private owner (54,398)
Renaissance (1,333)
Shelby County, Tennessee (199)
Tennessee (2,877)
Terra cotta (3,922)
Theater (3,273)
Victorian (19,698)

Update Log 

  • December 12, 2019: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • December 10, 2019: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • December 10, 2019: Updated by J.R. Manning: Corrected GPS data, added description and photographs.
  • December 28, 2011: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger

Sources