Orpheum Theater

Orpheum Theater.

The building at 611 NP Avenue was built in 1896 by the Fargo Mercantile, which occupied it until 1909, when it sold the building to J. W. Smith, president of the Fargo Loan Agency.

The Mercantile building was 50 x 140 feet. Twelve assistants were employed and six traveling salesmen. The sold everything under the general heading of groceries.

Smith sold the building in 1909 to Alex Stern, Max Stern, Maurice Kaufmann, James Kennedy, James Grady, and Pat Cummings who established the Orpheum Theater.

The Orpheum Theater opened to a packed house on the evening of Tuesday, April 4, 1911. The 1000 seat theater was managed by Lee Mockenfuss and featured a 6-piece orchestra under the direction of Anton Ziegler. Harry M. Ruddlater became conductor.

The opening night acts included Leroy & Paul (comedians), William & Gordon (singers), the Milch Sisters (violin and vocals), "The Little Stranger" (a drama), Lotta Gladstone (singing comedienne), and the Gee-Jays (marionettes). The festivities began with "Orpheum Kinodrome Pictures." Admission ranged from 15¢ to 75¢.

The theater was in direct competition with the Grand Theater owned by George "Dad" Fowler, which also booked vaudeville acts. The two competitors merged in 1914 with Fowler as president and William Stern treasurer of the new operation. The group ran "western vaudeville" at the Grand and the Orpheum road show house, bringing in stock companies.

Birth of a Nation poster.

The lower right postcard advertises the Orpheum's showing of the moving picture "The Birth of a Nation." Although the postcard is undated to the year, the movie was released in 1915.

The Orpheum was sold in 1921 to the McCarthy Brothers. They in turn sold the theater to the American Amusement Co. of Minneapolis in 1925. The Orpheum closed a few years afterward and stood empty for several years until Mike Orban established a shoe repair shop in the remodeled lobby of the theater.

John J. Kennelly and Jack Siegel purchased the building in 1949 from John L. McCormick Sr., Steve Gorman Sr., and the Dan Polis estate. The Orpheum Theater marquee was removed in 1952. I don't know the use of the building during this time.

In February 1960, the building was purchased by a corporation formed among officers of the Dakota National Bank. They razed the building to make a parking lot.