AKA: Orpheum Theater and Realty Company, Orpheum Theatre, O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA; Columbia Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Lansburgh and Joseph, Architects (firm); Bernard Julius Joseph (architect); Gustave Albert Lansburgh (architect)

Dates: constructed 1908-1909, demolished 1938

2 stories

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147 O'Farrell Street
Tenderloin, San Francisco, CA 94102

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Building History

The San Francisco architectural firm of G. Albert Lansburgh (1876-1969) and Bernard Julius Joseph (1875-1971) produced the design for this third Orpheum Theatre located on O'Farrell Street between Stockton Street and Powell Street. This was Lansburgh's earliest theatre commission, one of many for the Orpheum chain. He would go on to become one of the leading designers of theatres during the 1910s-1920s. Over the years, Lansburgh developed a close business relationship with Morris Meyerfeld, Jr., (b. 12/17/1855 in Westphalia, Germany-d. 06/20/1935 in San Francisco, CA.) head of the Orpheum circuit, and Lansburgh's brother, Simon Lazarus Lansburgh, Jr., (1879-1954), became the firm's counsel and later president in 1920. (Lansburgh also designed the Home of Peace Cemetery Mausoleum of Morris Meyerfeld, Jr., in 1936.)

The theatre's opening on Monday, 04/19/1909, attracted celebrities, the local business elite, politicians, and judges. Interior designer Elsie de Wolfe was in attendance, as was the architect, G. Albert Lansburgh, who occupied Box #10 with his brother, Simon, and his wife, next to owner Morris Meyerfeld's Box #9. (See Walter Anthony, "Orpheum Opens in Tumult of Enthusiasm," San Francisco Call, vol. 105, no. 141, 04/20/1909, p. 21.)

Building Notes

The management of the Orpheum #3 in 1909 consisted of Meyerfeld, president of the Orpheum Theatre chain, Martin Beck, the chain's general manager, and John Morrissey, the theatre's manager. Morrissey lasted in this position until 08/1912, when he resigned to open his own theatre. (See "Morrissey Resigns as Orpheum Head," San Francisco Call, vol. 112, no. 79, 08/18/1912, p. 41.) Fred B. Henderson took his position.

The Orpheum opened on O'Farrell Street in 1909, and lasted in this location until 1927 when it was renamed the Columbia Theatre; another theatre called the "Orpheum" (Orpheum #4) opened on Market Street in San Francisco c. 1927. During the 1930s, the Orpheum #3 was known as the Columbia (1930, 1936-1938), Erlanger's Columbia (1931-1934), Minski's (c. 1935).

In 08/1915, the Orpheum Theatre #3 temporarily ended its motion picture exhibition, in favor of accommodating vaudeville acts. “After a somewhat varied experience in the picture game, the Orpheum has closed to pictures and T.R. Condon., its manager, has taken over the management of the Empress, playing Sullivan and Considine vaudeville. Mr. Piersong, formerly manager of the Empress will be in charge of the Orpheum when it opens to big time vaudeville in the fall. Just where the V-L-S-E and Mutual Masterpieces service will go from the Orpheum is a matter of conjecture at the time of this writing but rumor has it that both services will go to the Columbia.” (See “Orpheum Closes to Pictures,” Moving Picture World, 08/14/1915, p. 1196.)

In 1935, the Columbia Theatre had the street address of 135 O'Farrell Street. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1935, p. 1875.)


The Columbia Theatre was razed in 05/1938. A parking facility replaced the Orpheum Theatre #3.

PCAD id: 1554