Sioux City Orpheum Restoration
During the reconstruction, the theater was made accessible to the public. Thousands of people toured the building during all phases, and the citizens of Sioux City felt the energy of the project build as they watched the progress.
The original blower, which kept theater patrons cool in 1927, now 75 years old, was put back into service, and all of the original duct work was reused. Workers drilled 486 holes through the original 11-inch (280-millimeter) concrete floor to accommodate the geothermal heating and cooling system.
Rebuilding the Auditorium
Leading the restoration effort was FEH Associates, an architecture/
engineering firm in Sioux City. Their single toughest problem was reconstructing the balcony and loge boxes. It took four months and 40,000 pounds (18,000 kilograms) of steel to complete the reconstruction.
After the balcony was completed, a 70-foot (21-meter) scaffold was erected filling the entire theater. This platform allowed painters and plasterers access to the domed auditorium ceiling and proscenium arch. The scaffolding remained in place for four months and hundreds of townspeople witnessed the intricate plaster reconstruction and painting up close.
Scores of local companies were involved in the restoration, and most of the craftsman were local. In some cases, they were trained and supervised by specialists with extensive restoration experience. The specialists were impressed by the level of craftsmanship and professionalism of the local workforce.
As opening day approached, artisans installed custom-patterned wall fabric, drapery, and carpeting in the main theater and lobby. Electricians began wiring and hanging some 350 new and original light fixtures. Twenty-five hundred theater seats were delivered, assembled, and installed.
Working within the same physical space as the original Orpheum, the newly restored theater had to incorporate modern amenities. A spacious green room, much larger and more lavish restrooms, and additional bars were added to accommodate patrons.
When the theater reopened in the fall of 2001, reporter Robert Morast wrote in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "Basically, the Orpheum feels like an upper-class theater ripped out of an old black-and-white movie and given a Technicolor treatment. The ambiance alone in worth the price of admission."
George Lindblade is a filmmaker and photographer who extensively documented the reconstruction of the Orpheum Theatre. Over five years, he shot more than 100 videotapes and thousands of still photographs to record the theater's transformation.
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