Orpheum Theater

1907 - 1937
Actual structure 1872-2016

Once known for “continuous vaudville,” the wood inside it continues on...

Urban Wood Goods is fortunate to have a network of lumber and deconstruction contacts, who assist us with sourcing our reclaimed wood.  I sometimes look at our lumber yard as a “so and so knew a guy, who knew a guy” treasure chest of reclaimed wood.

Kyle, who was one of our top lumber supplies, introduced me to his close friend also in the deconstruction business named Bob.  Bob has a huge lumber yard on the South Side of Chicago.  A gentleman in his eighties, who has more character than the reclaimed wood we source from him.  Over the last 50 years, he has demoed countless buildings in Chicago and has a story to tell with every plank he has in his lumber yard.  He will talk you ear off for an entire morning and always has a new joke to share.

Beyond his larger than life character, Bob sees the value in old reclaimed wood and understands how precious old growth timbers are today.  Apparently, his passion for reclaimed wood is visible at a home in Minnesota, with acres full of salvaged timbers and other interesting architectural salvaged items he has collected over the years.  I always leave Bob’s lumber yard with a new joke to tell and a greater appreciation for the stories behind reclaimed wood.

One early summer morning in 2016, I headed out to Bob’s yard to check out some reclaimed wood which Kyle promised would be amazing--it did not disappoint.  Bob was selling lumber from a recently deconstructed building at 112 South State Street in downtown Chicago.  It was at least two full semi trucks worth of gorgeous 3” thick lumber.  Some of the wood had unique markings on the ends, and I had never seen anything quite like it.  What was the story behind the markings and this building in Chicago?

I contacted the Chicago History Research Center to hopefully learn more about my 112 South State Street reclaimed wood.  A researcher told me they had references to multiple businesses at that address throughout the years.  In 1907, the Orpheum Theater was recorded as being near the corner of State and Monroe with its original address being 174-176 South State Street.  

Now, here’s the rabbit hole you can fall down researching architecture and reclaimed wood in Chicago.  With the exception of the central business district, Chicago’s entire address numbering system was changed in 1909 to The Brennan Number System.  Evidence of this change can be seen throughout pre-1909 Chicago buildings, perhaps with mismatched street numbers.  Stained glass above a main entrance may not match a plaque attached to a mailbox or affixed to the building.  The new system standardized street numbers across Chicago into a eight block equals a mile numbering system.  

This placed the Orpheum Theater at 110-112 South State Street after converting the original address to the post-1909 number system.  The building dated back to 1872 and had a history complete with jewellers, paper hangers, dry goods; up to its last hurrah as a Men’s Warehouse location.  Amazing how one trip to visit Bob; reinvigorated my passion for reclaimed wood, taught me about address numbers and left me with a joke.

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