New Orpheum Theatre

Also known as: RKO Orpheum Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, Orpheum Children's Science Museum
346--352 N. Neil St., Champaign, Illinois


Overview Looking Northeast

If you compare the fašade of this theater to the fašade of the Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo, Wisconsin, you can see that the two theaters were designed about the same time by the same architects. Granted, the Ringling has far more decor and is much larger, but the building layout is certainly similar.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning



An early Rapp & Rapp design theater, the New Orpheum was designed as a scale model of the opera house at Versailles. (So was the Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo, Wisconsin, although Al Ringling spent far more money on decor.)

The Orpheum is Classical Revival design, the interior style is French Renaissance and Baroque. Built as both a film and Vaudeville venue, the theater had 754 seats and 18 loge boxes. The last film was shown in 1986, the theater was due to be demolished in 1989 but was purchased by the City of Champaign and was saved. Today, it houses the popular Orpheum Children's Science Museum, although in 2009, the Museum began to search for a larger facility and is looking for adaptive reuse of the theater.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on February 28, 1991
Reference number
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Entertainment/Recreation; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Theater; Specialty store
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant year