Built in just a little more than three months in 1913, the Orpheum Theater is the oldest existing theater in the city. Designed combining Neo-Classical Revival and Prairie architectural styles, it has remained an important cultural focal point for Sioux Falls ever since. The two-story building features a terra-cotta facade that resembles marble and include decorative detailing such as molded trim and garland. Inside, the building features marble wall paneling, tile floors, and murals on the ceiling and frieze areas in the auditorium, which has 1,000 seats. The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 for its architecture and status as an enduring landmark in the city. The building next door, which was erected in 1949, is part of the theater; both buildings form one facility called the Orpheum Theater Center.
Backstory and Context
Brothers Frank and Lawrence Solari built the theater at a cost of $63,200 (it is not clear whether they were architects or in the theater business). It opened on October 2 to great fanfare with an evening show consisting of several vaudeville acts of musical performers, dancers, comedy, and even posing animals. Tickets cost $5 which was expensive at the time.
These vaudeville shows continued until 1927 when it was converted into B-movie and second-run theater. Eventually, it was left vacant for a time and it fell into disrepair. This lasted until 1954 when the Sioux Falls Community Playhouse bought it and soon offered five shows each season and hosted touring shows as well. A children and teen theater was established in the 1960s. The theater was then remodeled in the 1970s.
In 1994, the city bought the building next door and leased it to the Playhouse, which named it the Actor's Studio. The Playhouse used this extra space for performances and as rented space. This arrangement lasted until 2003 when the city bought both buildings and contracted a managing company, called SMG, to operate the whole facility, which was renamed The Orpheum Theater Center.
"Centennial History." Orpheum Theater Center. Accessed Januray 10, 2020. https://www.siouxfallsorpheum.com/about-the-orpheum/centennial-history.
Putz, Paul. "Orpheum Theater." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. June 23, 1983. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/4dd9d29b-169d-4d07-bd0b-5f7dbfd05f74.
The Historical Marker Database