The Palace was a double decker theater, which meant that one auditorium was stacked on top of the other, a rare design choice at the time. The lower, street-level auditorium had 2,300 seats and the upper had around 900. The space was among the largest and most open in the area, leading the city to use it as the site of it’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1916.
I recently spoke with Lance Gunberg, a graphic designer and filmmaker who is also the president of Orpheum Rising Project Helpers or O.R.P.H, Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving the theater.
The Orpheum Theatre opened on April 15, 1912 — the same day the Titanic sank. Located on Water Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts, it was part of a Beaux-Arts building that was built in 1910 by a French-Canadian group known as Le Club des Francs-Tireurs (The French Sharpshooters Club). The building’s official name is La Salle Francs Tireurs, or French Sharpshooters Hall.
Local architect Louis Destremps — known for his work on the Notre Dame De Lourdes church in Fall River, Massachusetts — designed the building, which included the theater, a ballroom, a shooting range, a gymnasium, retail space and various office and meeting spaces. The Ballroom and Theater served as revenue for the club.