Orpheum Celebrates 90 Years And Receives $1M Gift For Restoration

By: KAKE News/WBJ Email
By: KAKE News/WBJ Email

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More than 30 years have passed since the Orpheum Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In celebration of the theatre's 90th anniversary, and in recognition of National Preservation Month, the Orpheum hosted an unveiling and dedication ceremony for its new National Register Plaque.

"This will be the first time the Wichita community will be able to view the theatre's plaque depicting it as being recognized nationally as a place of historic significance," said Jennifer Wright, President of the Orpheum Theatre.

The Orpheum has also received a $1 million gift from the Willard and Jean Garvey Trust toward the restoration of the downtown venue. The gift will help the Orpheum formally launch the next phase of its restoration efforts, including the necessary planning and design work, theater officials said Wednesday in a news release.

“We are honored and grateful beyond words for Mrs. Garvey’s generosity. A gift of this magnitude will make a tremendous impact in our ability to successfully restore the theatre,” said Jennifer Wright. “We will do everything possible to ensure that Mrs. Garvey’s vision for the future of the Orpheum is realized. Restoration is absolutely necessary and is the right thing to do for the theatre, for the community and our citizens.”

In February, the theater hired New York architect Malcolm Holzman to lead a team of experts to restore the 1922 theater to its original state. The cost of the project is still being finalized.

Jean Garvey said restoring the theater will ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy the historic venue, which she attended growing up in Wichita.

“We’re pleased that there is continuing strong support to return the Orpheum to its original architectural integrity and glamour I remember from girlhood,” says Garvey. “I hope that the Orpheum will maintain its position as the leader of presenting quality performances, showcasing particularly our local performing arts and being a true cultural center.”

The Wichita Orpheum Theatre opened on Sept. 4, 1922. It was designed as a showcase for Vaudeville acts touring the Orpheum Circuit across the country. Its opening placed Wichita on the map so to speak when it came to the performing arts. The theatre was constructed by a group of local investors and at the time was the finest, most luxurious theatre in the region.

Today, the theatre operates as a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that the theatre is authentically restored and maintained through general community support and private funding. To provide a performing arts center that will offer quality entertainment, enhance educational and cultural opportunities, and provide an additional venue for tourism and economic growth for the region.

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