Photo from the Kansas City Public Library collection
W Ninth St & May St|
Kansas City MO 64105
|Record #10553 |
Current Organ: none
| Also Known As: Ninth Street Theatre|
Information for this tour was contributed by Kansas City Public Library.
The old Orpheum Theater at 9th and May was originally H.D. Clarke's 9th Street Theater. It was leased by the Orpheum Theater and Realty Co. in 1898.
The Orpheum idea was born in the 1890s. Two vaudeville houses on the Pacific coast had succeeded in presenting a higher type of entertainment than was to be had in burlesque and variety houses. Kansas City was chosen the third city for such a theater on what became the Orpheum circuit.
Martin Lehman opened the theater Feb. 6, 1898, with a bill which attempted to prove that vaudeville was higher class than variety shows. The opening program: Boys Hungarian Band; Servais LeRoy, magician; Hayden & Hetherton, in a sketch; Gallando, a clay modeler; Gruet, Beers & Gruet, acrobatic comedians; the Vesuviano quartet; Miss Olga Hayden; Matthews & Harris in a sketch, and Biograph pictures.
The first season ended with a $20,000 deficit. But Lehman had faith, and another season was scheduled. By 1904, according to a Journal-Post story, "The Orpheum is now generally known as a gold mine and expects to break all records this year."
The theater continued in operation until 1914, when a new $500,000 theater was completed at 1212 Baltimore, just south of the Hotel Muehlebach.
For 27 years Orpheum vaudeville was presented in Kansas City. Among the stars were Will Rogers, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Fred Stone, Elsie Janis, Nora Bayes, Willie and Eugene Howard, Mme. Sarah Bernhardt. Lehman's son, Lawrence, managed the theater in its later location.
The old Orpheum, as pictured, stood empty and neglected and badly vandalized before it was razed in 1922 by the owners, the H.D. Clark estate.
Kansas City Times
December 12, 1980
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Last featured 3/8/2005. Last edited 12/5/2011.