A Visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House

OrpheumFrankLloydWrightFrank Lloyd Wright's Allen HouseAs a team working for a local historic theatre, we have a definite appreciation of the the work and passion involved with saving, restoring and maintaining historic properties. Friday we had the opportunity to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House, thanks to tour guide and volunteer Dee Starkey.

The house just re-opened following restoration of the wood floors and installation of new carpet, and we were honored to be the first tour since November. The Allen House Foundation now offers regular tours on Tuesdays and Fridays, and group tours by appointment. It’s beautiful to look at from the outside, but you have to go inside to see all the exquisite detail in design, layout, trim and furniture.

If you’ve never been inside the Allen House (formerly Allen-Lambe House), it’s worth a trip to College Hill to experience the architectural landmark and piece of Wichita history.

Orpheum Staff Wish Lists

In light of the Customer Experience Survey we are conducting this month, we thought this was a great opportunity to introduce the Orpheum staff and see what is on our wish lists for future events.

Question number 4 on the survey asks, “What are the top 5 films and top 5 live events you’d like to see at the Orpheum?” Here’s how we responded:

Top Five Films:

  • Hard Day’s Night
  • Eating Raoul
  • My Dinner with Andre
  • Once
  • Godfather trilogy

Top Five Live Events:

  • Elvis Costello
  • Glen Hansard
  • Emmilou Harris
  • Milk Carton Kids
  • Darlingside
Top Five Films (get ready for a Streisand Fest!):

  • Funny Girl
  • Hello, Dolly!
  • On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
  • A Star is Born (1976)
  • The Way We Were

Top Five Live Events:

  • Tori Amos
  • Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
  • Shawn Colvin
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Allison Krauss
Top Five Films:

  • Spice World
  • The Life Aquatic
  • Goodfellas
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Army of Darkness

Top Five Live Events:

  • St. Paul and the Broken Bones
  • Leon Bridges
  • Toro y Moi
  • Childish Gambino
  • Beach House
Top Five Films:

  • A League of Their Own
  • Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
  • Lonesome Dove
  • Titanic
  • Jurassic Park series

Top Five Live Events:

  • Stoney LaRue
  • Penn & Teller
  • Hannibal Buress
  • Impractical Jokers
  • Dixie Chicks
Top Five Films:

  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • The Descendants
  • Suspiria

Top Five Live Events:

  • St. Vincent
  • tUnE-yArDs
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Courtney Barnett
  • King Tuff
Top Five Films:

  • A Hard Day’s Night
  • Romeo & Juliet (1996)
  • Metropolis
  • Mary Poppins
  • Bonnie & Clyde

Top Five Live Events:

  • Father John Misty
  • Neil Young
  • Alt-J
  • Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens
  • Punch Brothers

If you haven’t taken our survey, please take a moment to give us your feedback! We would like to hear from our friends and patrons of the Orpheum about what you like, dislike and what you want to see at our historic theatre. Your feedback will help us with future programming, event coordination and marketing efforts.


Phase 1 Restorations Complete, What’s Next?

We are proud to announce that the restoration of the auditorium foyer/promenade and east stair tower is complete.

Months of intense restoration activity, including exquisite hand painting by artisans and painstaking craftsmanship has resulted in the beautiful restoration of theatre mirrors, wall sconces, crown molding and much more.

This $500,000 restoration project has made a dramatic difference in the appearance of the auditorium’s interior promenade area. Places where there were once holes in the walls, cracked and missing plaster are now pristine. New benches in the lobby were installed over new HVAC units to heat and cool this portion of the theatre, providing improved circulation. New mirrors compliment their newly repainted frames. New light fixtures add more light to the east stair tower, and new carpeting pulls it all together. Even the infamous exposed brick wall on the mezzanine level is now history.

Not only did this project fix what needed to be fixed, but it is also a giant step toward our ultimate goal – complete restoration.

Phases Two, Three and Four will be done simultaneously and will include the Orpheum auditorium, stage house and new lobby with additional bathrooms and concession spaces. The Orpheum’s Capital Campaign will raise all of the funds needed to complete the long-awaited restoration of Wichita’s iconic downtown theatre.

The theatre has completed every phase of restoration possible without getting into the theatre’s auditorium, which is the long-awaited project that includes new floors and seating. Once work begins in the auditorium, the theatre will close for up to a year during restoration.

In the coming months and years, restoration is priority number one. We hope that Wichita will support our endeavors to deliver what we all want and deserve – a beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre.

Phase 1 is Wrapping Up, But We’re Not Done Yet

A busy event schedule slowed some of our progress, but we have some exciting updates to report. The molding around the mirrors and above the exit doors is complete, concluding the decorative painting for this phase of restorations. Additionally, the mirrors were reconditioned and recently re-installed. And perhaps most notably, the carpet in the foyer was replaced, offering a clean, even walkway behind the Orchestra level.

New Paint, New Life: The Auditorium Foyer Revitalized

The auditorium foyer is starting to look as beautiful as ever. Over the past few weeks, a lot of decorative painting has been done, and the foyer is beginning to have the appearance of a Spanish courtyard, as was originally intended. Thanks to the paint analysis conducted by Conrad Schmitt Studios, the color scheme now matches the original palette from 1922. These rich, vibrant colors have brought life back into the foyer and introduce an atmosphere most Orpheum guests have not yet experienced.

Most of our guests are familiar with the auditorium foyer as pictured below, before restorations began. The only color was on the walls; the crown molding and stair railings were simply white.

The foyer has certainly changed, so next time you visit the theatre, look up at the intricately painted details from the stairs to the ceiling decor, columns, and crown molding. You will encounter warm reds and oranges with accents of green and gold, making you feel as if you are a Spaniard enjoying a summer night out in your courtyard.

Authenticity & Restoration: A Historical Paint Analysis

One major aspect of the Orpheum’s ongoing improvements is the restoration of the paint throughout the theatre. The auditorium foyer is the current subject of these restorations, and it is being repainted in the original color palette as it was painted in 1922.

Since opening, the theatre has undergone several renovations and color schemes, and the only evidence we have of the original paint are black and white photos. In order to discover the original colors, we enlisted the help of Conrad Schmitt Studios, a company that specializes in replications and restorations of historic buildings, churches, theatres and more. The company was an obvious choice for this project due to their wonderful work on other Eberson theatres, such as the Paramount in Anderson, Indiana.

In 2002, the artisans of Conrad Schmitt studios conducted an onsite paint analysis at the Orpheum Theatre. The almost $10,000 study entailed numerous paint samples and analysis whereby paint was painstakingly removed, layer by layer, until the original paint was determined in several parts of the theatre. Based upon their findings, and what they know of the theatre architect, John Eberson, the restored color palette is bright, colorful and different from what you have seen to date. The colors you see in the areas already restored are slightly different from the color palette inside the theatre’s auditorium. This transition is intentional and only adds to the dramatic feel of the theatre.

The concept of Eberson’s atmospheric theatre was to give the impression of being in an outdoor courtyard on a moonlight night. The restoration of the Orpheum’s foyer will look dramatically different from how the auditorium itself will look when it is complete. The visual transition of colors and feel will be apparent from the auditorium’s foyer (indoors) to the transition of being in the auditorium (outdoors).

Thanks to the efforts of Conrad Schmitt Studios, Eberson’s vision for the Orpheum will be revitalized and our guests will get to experience the atmosphere of the theatre as it was originally intended.

Orpheum Featured in National Publication

We are extremely honored to be featured in the summer 2015 edition of Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s quarterly magazine. The issue features places restored, threatened, saved, and lost. The Orpheum Theatre was deemed saved, and the piece highlights some of our past, present, and future restorations.

Honored to be featured in Preservation Magazine.

Our spotlight in Preservation

The mission of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is to connect Americans with our pasts by saving the historical places in our country. They say that historic preservation is “the cause that transforms communities from places we live into places that we love.”

The Orpheum’s restoration project of 30 years owes much of its success to organizations such as the Trust and the countless individuals and organizations that share our belief and commit to preserving an important piece of Wichita history. In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was passed, giving acknowledgment to the need to protect our history. This act established a federal policy for the preservation of our nation’s history and created the National Register of Historic places as well as the National Historic Landmarks program.

In 1980, the Orpheum was placed on the National Register of Historic places, a status that means the theatre is deserving of protection and preservation. Not long after this designation, the Orpheum underwent a 10-year rehabilitation period and is now on its way to being fully restored.

A major step forward for our restorations occurred when we received a $200,000 grant and were thus considered an “American Treasure.” This grant, known as the Federal Save America’s Treasures grant, was issued by the National Park Service in 2001.

Since that time, approximately $5 million has been raised and invested in the theatre’s continued improvements and restoration, and with additional funding, we will be able to continue our work until the Orpheum Theatre is restored to its original glory. Famous travel expert Arthur Frommer said,

“Every study of travel motivations has shown that an interest in the achievements of the past is among the three major reasons why people travel. The other two are rest or recreation and the desire to view great natural sights…Among cities with no particular recreational appeal, those that have substantially preserved their past continue to enjoy tourism. Those that haven’t receive no tourism at all. It’s as simple as that. Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul.”

We believe the Orpheum is considered both an achievement of the past and a place for rest and recreation. By preserving our theatre, we will enhance our ability to serve the community and will add value to Wichita by providing history, tourism, economic development, and most of all, the enjoyment of films and live entertainment.

We look forward to sharing our future restoration with you.


Phase 1: Goodbye to the Big, Ugly Hole

The auditorium foyer has seen the most recent progress for Phase 1 restorations. First and foremost, we are excited to say that the hole in the ceiling above the bar has been repaired! New plaster molding has been installed on the mirror frames and ceiling trim. The paint on the overhead fixtures has been redone and the light bulbs are ready to be anchored. In addition, new exit signs have been installed.  Our restorations are looking wonderful so far!

Phase 1 Update: New Plaster

We are very excited about the work currently being done. The stair rail project is about down and now we’re working our way down to the orchestra level. Last week, the new molded plaster arrived and it is now in the process of being installed. Additionally, the original molding that is intact on the orchestra level is being prepped for re-painting.

Architect Highlights

When our theatre was built in 1922, it was designed for the purpose of hosting vaudeville performances. Vaudeville shows consisted of specialty acts that were much shorter than typical shows of the modern day. These performers did not require a great deal of equipment or backstage space for their production.

As the nature of performing arts evolves, the Orpheum Theatre serves a different purpose than it once did. Today’s artists will arrive with an entourage of production crew members. The audience comes for the experience of the performance, which often lasts at least two hours. With all of this comes the need for expanded concessions, bars, more bathrooms, greater backstage area, and much more.

When it came time to create our Master Plan, we sought to assemble a team of experts with a variety of backgrounds. Law-Kingdon Architecture, a local design firm who has worked for us on several restoration projects over the years, teamed up with New-York based Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture to put together a course of action that will allow our theatre to better serve the Wichita community.

LK Architecture Holzman Moss Bottino



Holzman Moss Bottino specializes in restoring performing arts centers around the country, including historic theatres not unlike our own. Lead architect Malcolm Holzman has experience restoring Eberson theatres such as the Orpheum. Here are some examples of their past work.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music Rose Cinemas and Café in Brooklyn, New York.

The Hawaii Theatre Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The New Victory Theater in New York, New York.

Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York.

We are pleased to have these two firms working in partnership to make our master plan a reality. We are confident the results of their work will be exceptional.