Filed Under Architecture

New Orpheum Theater

Built in 1914, the New Orpheum Theater was constructed in Classical Revival style.

Built in the Classical Revival style, this beautiful 800 seat theater was constructed by the famous architects Cornelius and George Rapp of Carbondale, IL. George was a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Architecture. in 1899. Their firm Rapp and Rapp are responsible for some of America’s most beloved theaters including the grand Chicago Theater and Paramount Building in Times Square New York. The New Orpheum Theater was inspired by a 1911 visit to France by the Rapp brothers. The Orpheum represents a one third scale model of the La Salle de Spectacle Opera Hall in Versailles.

The theater opened for its first show on October 19, 1914 making it the second oldest remaining theater in Downtown behind the Park “Art” Theatre. The theater was constructed for vaudeville theater and later converted to a moving picture house and live performance venue. The theater operated without interruption except for a brief closure caused by the depression in 1932 and a 1915 Spanish influenza outbreak. The building however thrived throughout the reminder of the 30’s and 40’s as citizens looked for newsreels from the war front and a chance to get away from the world troubles through film.

Over the years the theater passed from RKO (Radio, Keith, Orpheum) to Keresota Theaters which altered it’s facade in 1967. The final show was in April 1986. The building was saved from demolition in 1990 by the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) and subsequently sold to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum. Today plans are continuing to garner public support to restore the auditorium and bring shows back to the stage.


Orpheum Theater View: Facing north Source: Sam Logan Photography Creator: Sam Logan Photography Date: 26 March 2016
Orpheum Theater Entryway Source: Champaign County Historical Archives Date: Undated
New Orpheum Theatre, Champaign View of the front of the Orpheum Theatre located on North Hickory Street in Champaign. Source: University of Illinois Archives Creator: Lloyde, D.H. (1835-1922) Date: circa 1913
Orpheum Children's Museum Marquee Source: T.J. Blakeman Date: Undated
Orpheum Source: City of Champaign Date: 1990
Orpheum Theater Source: Champaign County Historical Archives Date: 1960-1970
Orpheum Source: Champaign County Historical Archives Date: Undated


346 North Neil St.


T.J. Blakeman, “New Orpheum Theater,” ExploreCU, accessed June 30, 2022,