The NorShor Theatre’s Mighty Tower

In preparation for the events this week honoring the Orpheum Theatre’s centennial at the NorShor, Tony Dierckins put together a slide show with some fantastic historical photographs. You can see the whole thing on Saturday — it’ll be looping in the NorShor’s balcony theater — but here’s one of my favorite images:

This is the tower that used to be part of the theater’s marquee. You’ve probably seen photos of it from the other direction, but this one uniquely looks out over the lake. The tower stood 65 feet above the theater, weighed over 300 tons, and was completely sheathed in porcelain. It used 3,000 lights and was said to be visible from 60 miles away.

28 Comments

Claire

about 11 years ago

Very cool, thanks for posting it, Paul!

TimK

about 11 years ago

The story I heard was that it was removed at the urging of an insurance agent.

Nate

about 11 years ago

That's awesome!

Bully

about 11 years ago

Whenever this subject comes up someone says they heard it is stored somewhere. Does anyone know if this is true?

W.T.F

about 11 years ago

Thanks Paul for sharing this cool pic and a little bit of history.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

No one has been able to verify where it is, if it still exists.

edgeways

about 11 years ago

Considering its weight and amount of electricity it must have consumed if the tower was found, as cool as it would look, I don't know if it'd be such a good idea to remount it. I'd totally love to see it erected independently somewhere close by though, turned on for special events. Say, instead of chopping a tree down use the tower as the official Christmas tree (not that I think many people would actually go for that).

Gary

about 11 years ago

Find it, put a wind turbine on it, and make the Norshor the first energy independent arts venue in MN!

Wes Scott

about 11 years ago

Sure wish I had been around to see it.
I can't imagine how cool it would have been.

Adam

about 11 years ago

The top floor interior of the NorShor Annex has substantial crossbeam bracing for the superstructure.

Bret

about 11 years ago

I heard it was stored in St. Paul somewhere.  Just a rumor, but...

Shane

about 11 years ago

I would like to see the tower or an authentic recreation put back, perhaps with led lights.

Tony D.

about 11 years ago

Photo above courtesy Midwest Architectural Archives. 

The tower came down March 8, 1967. According to the DNT's report at the time, "The building's owners had it removed due to high maintenance costs." The owners at the time would have been the Hartley Family Trust, the same owners who had the top three floors and Moorish dome of the Temple Opera Block removed in 1942.

Rumors for the reason behind that abound. Many suggest the Temple Block was compromised so that the NorShor's tower would stand out more as landmark. The one that makes me chuckle--and this has been reported by architectural historians as well as Hartley family members--was that Guilford Hartley, who built the Orpheum/Orpheum garage in 1910, had the Temple Block shortened because he thought the Moorish flourishes on the Romanesque Temple Block clashed with his brand new, neoclassical Orpheum Theatre. Well, Guilford Hartley died in 1922, and the floors weren't removed until 1942. (His son, also named Guilford Hartley, was part of the Hartley family Trust in 1942....)

By the way, the Hartley Trust didn't convert the Orpheum into the NorShor. It owned the buildings, but the Minnesota Amusement Co. leased the Orpheum/Garage and arranged and paid for the transformation.

I'd love to somehow make that "photo documentary" ("121 Years of Performance and Film") available on PDD or the new NorShor web site after Saturday's event. It's a powerpoint right now--does anyone have any ideas how to turn it into something that can be viewed on a web site?

Shane

about 11 years ago

Powerpoint has the option to turn slides into .jpgs, those could then be posted on the web as images.

jeanine

about 11 years ago

slideshare:

http://www.slideshare.net/

Barrett Chase

about 11 years ago

If I lived on the west side of Greysolon, I don't think I'd appreciate an enormous tower with 3,000 lights right outside my bedroom window.

brian

about 11 years ago

Tony, if you can send me the jpgs, or the powerpoint file, I can make a gallery on PDD and the NorShor site.

Adam

about 11 years ago

Anyone have an idea of the price tag of the Orpheum to NorShor transformation?

Tony D.

about 11 years ago

Just looked--could not find renovation cost among my records, Adam.

Here's a fun tidbit from the DNT July 10, 1941, day before NorShor opened::

"[The Tower] was designed to stand a normal wind pressure of 100 miles per hour. The foundations carrying the tower were carried down to the bedrock."

Zach P.

about 11 years ago

Are you sure about the "300 tons"? It is an impressive tower, but the weight seems to be too big to be accurate.

Tony D.

about 11 years ago

Zach, I checked. I think the confusion comes in because this statement is stuck in a paragraph about the tower (from 1941 DNT article), but it seems the 300 tons of structural steel was part of the entire renovation:

"With reference to the structure, over 300 tons of structural steel were used to form the skeleton of the building."

But how and where did they add that much structural steel to an existing building? Could this reference have been about the tower and its support structure?

Tim

about 11 years ago

Is it just me, or does this angle make you think the architect had a symbolic "lighthouse" in mind when designing this.

Bob

about 11 years ago

Gary - I'm going to pretend that you didn't write that we should put a windmill on top of the Nor Shor

blt2lst

about 11 years ago

Bob-

I am going to pretend that you didn't call it a windmill. Windmills grind grain. Wind Generators make electricity.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

The Orpheum/NorShor historic slide show is now posted. Click the link below:

NorShor Theatre Historical Slide Show

Hot Shot

about 11 years ago

That thing is beautiful.
It'd be fantastic if a replica were made now that the theater is open again. Even a scaled down version would be amazing.

zra

about 11 years ago

I'm interested in the laker in the background. How far in can you zoom before the iq starts to break up?

Tony D.

about 11 years ago

Z:

Can't see any i.d. on the boat no matter how close you zoom in.

TD

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