Theater’s Architectural Relic Discovered on State Street

Architectural Relic at Demolition Site

I found a pretty cool architectural relic yesterday. Clinging to the walls of the former Amalgamated Bank building on State Street are plaster details that looked distinctly like they were once in a theater. My guess was that over time the details on the bottom levels of this former theater had been scraped away for new retail space.

I found it fascinating how they are picking apart the structure of the former bank building. The project had totally demolished the building next to it, formerly a Men’s Warehouse store at 112 S. State St. And I’m always nosy when it comes to looking at buildings. By going back around to the alley, just a stone’s throw from where our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour begins, I was able to look into the site and discover this architectural relic. That’s when my hunt for the relic’s origins began.

architectural relic state street
Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

The Orpheum Theatre

I posted my photo on the Facebook page for Forgotten Chicago last night to see what other people might think. Ends up the former Men’s Warehouse was originally the Orpheum Theatre, a vaudeville theater built in 1907.

orpheum theater state street architectural
Photo Courtesy

The Orpheum Theatre was one of few theaters designed by Holabird and Roche, more known for their early skyscrapers. Vaudeville was a form of variety show with anything from contortionists to burlesque comedy to dancing collie dogs. It’s incredible to imagine the laughs that once bounced off the walls of these crumbling plaster architectural relics.

From the looks of the architecture from State Street, one would have never imagined that it had once been full of hooting and hollering audiences. Well, actually the Orpheum Theatre was a little more high class than most, charging a dime instead of a nickel for entrance back in its early days. Perhaps it was a little more tame.

orpheum theatre state street
Photo Courtesy

It’s difficult to spot similarities between the plaster columns in the interior photo above and the current architectural relics. The columns in this historic photo do seem to have some detail underneath the capitals. Perhaps those are the garlands in the architectural relics that still survive (or at least they were surviving an hour ago when I checked!)

orpheum theatre architectural relics
Cropped Image Courtesy CTA

After the Orpheum

Vaudeville declined in popularity in the 1930s. This CTA postcard drawing from 1941 shows that the building’s theatrical past was lost. A modern white facade covers all the upper floors. Even then, it was starting to look like its last incarnation of the building, which was Men’s Warehouse.

It’s difficult to find people who wanted to capture the facade of Men’s Warehouse, so the only photos I can find other than Google Street View are protected on this website about the plans for development.

The next phase in the history of 112 S. State will be an expansion of the former Amalgamated Bank building at 100 S. State. The bank has moved to Lasalle Street. The two adjacent buildings will offer a massive retail space on a stretch of State Street that was previously interrupted by the bank. In an effort to bring State Street back to its “Great Street” glory, bigger realtors are following Target and Old Navy’s lead and moving in. But we won’t expect to see a resurgence in Vaudeville any time soon.

—Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


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Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


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Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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Amanda Scotese

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I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
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