The Orpheum Theatre was built in 1890 and was originally known as the Grand Opera House. The theater's construction was funded by "three of Ogden's leading citizens, who were embarrassed that the railroad hub of the Rockies didn't have a decent playhouse."1
The first performer at the Orpheum Theatre was Emma Abbot, "the prima donna of the world's stage"1, who died one week later.
"The theater was made of white pressed brick and the general architecture of the building was Romanesque. There were terraces on each story, connected at the top by a Turkish minaret.
". . . the decor of the theater lobby had mosiac tiling, richly frescoed walls and heavy oak doors with beautiful plate glass. The box office was octagonal in shape, covered with carved ornaments, and set with choice jewels and stained glass with mirror panels.
"The foyer of the theatre had grand oak staircases, and each stair had a niche with a bronzed statue that held a lighted torch. The auditorium and balcony seated 1,600 people and box seats were adorned with hundreds of sparkling jewels. The drop curtain was painted with a view of the Orient from the interior of a mosque."1
The Grand Opera House was renamed the Orpheum Theatre was named after the Orpheum Touring Circuit. Famous vaudeville actors who performed on the Orpheum's stage include the Marx Brothers, Jenny Lind, Lillian Russell, Maud Adams, and Burns and Allen.
Movies replaced vaudeville and stage plays at the Orpheum Theatre in the 1940s. The Orpheum continued as a cinema until it closed in 1982. At that time the exterior of the building looked run down and was in need of repair. An apartment building located above the theater sat empty and unused. The Turkish minaret at the top of the Orpheum theater had been demolished many years previously.
Dan Cook & Associates, which owned the option on the theater, planned to tear down the Orpheum in September 1983 to provide parking for the renovated Ben Lomond Hotel.
Daniel W. Cook, president of Dan Cook & Associates, had originally planned to renovate the Orpheum Theater for plays and symphonies or as a convention center for the hotel, but the need for parking for the Ben Lomond forced him to change his mind. "We just don't have any other land available for parking," Mr. Cook said. "I have no choice but to tear the theater down."1
1. "Ogden's Historic Orpheum Theatre Faces Demolition to Make Way for Parking Lot", Salt Lake Tribune , 4 September 1983 , Page B1