The Orpheum Theatre – West Pender Street

We saw the first theatre built on this spot in an earlier post. Built in 1899 as the Alhambra, it became the People’s Theatre, and was acquired and remodeled in 1905. In 1906 it was reopened as the Orpheum, with a greater capacity (increased to 1,200 seats) and a new front-of-house, seen here in 1910. It had been bought and run as a vaudeville theatre as part of the vaudeville circuit owned by John Considine of Seattle who was partnered with a New York Tammany Hall politician, Timothy ‘Big Tim’ Sullivan. The theatre ran successfully for several years, but after 1911 the partnership started to struggle to maintain their earlier success. Their main rival was Alexander Pantages, (also based out of Seattle) who ran a rival circuit and was generally more successful in gauging the public’s taste, and so booking the most popular acts. Sullivan died in 1913 after having been declared mentally incompetent in 1912, and Considine’s business suffered.

Here’s the theatre in 1911, in a panorama photographed from close to Granville Street. In 1910 the partnership had picked up the former Opera House, a much bigger and grandiose theatre, which two years later they renamed the “New Orpheum”. The West Pender theatre then appeared as ‘The Old Orpheum Theatre’ for a year, but the economy was in a bad way and the building disappeared from the directories in 1914, with the site being described as vacant. Soon afterwards a new single-storey building was developed here, used as a tire dealership, and then by the Auto Supply Co who sold Dirigo oils and greases, as well as Premium gasoline from a single gas pump embedded in the sidewalk.

In 1929 the site was redeveloped again, this time with a more permanent structure; the Stock Exchange Building. That still stands today as a heritage structure, soon to reopen as a hotel, with a new Swiss designed and developed office tower inserted through and over the older heritage building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P440 and part of CVA 73-2.

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Posted January 3, 2019 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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