Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Orpheum Theater’s resurrection nearing completion

  • At a time when Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it’s fitting that the revival of a local landmark is nearing its completion.

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  • At a time when Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it’s fitting that the revival of a local landmark is nearing its completion.
    The Orpheum Theater, which soon will be The Crossing Church’s downtown Hannibal home, has been given new life.
    “It is a very sad story when you think that it was sitting here and falling apart,” said Pastor Jerry Harris, who is projecting that The Crossing’s first worship service at its Fifth Street and Broadway site could take place in as few as three weeks. “The fact is there have been at least two attempts to try to do something about it and both failed. I think people were afraid of it and wanted to stay away from it. We really felt like God could accomplish it.
    “It’s basically done. It’s just down to details now. The rest of it has been accomplished.”
    While the structure, which opened its doors as a vaudeville theater in January 1922, has undergone major renovations inside and out, the project did not require starting from scratch.
    “The building might have looked bad, but it was sound. This building was built out of concrete and steel, and by a bridge builder,” said Harris. “It wasn’t as hard as some people might think to be able to put it back together and make it a facility that I think the city of Hannibal will be really proud of and want to be a part of, whether that’s through its church functions or whether it’s something that’s community-based that happens in here. I think they’ll be really, really proud walking in here and seeing how it looks.”
    Overall, Harris says the renovation project has gone smoothly.
    “There were a couple of things that we just felt like were necessary to do that we didn’t anticipate on the front end, but weren’t a problem,” he said. “We decided to put a whole new roof on, rather than repair the roof. The amount of plaster work we did in there needs to be protected. If you have one leak then you’re going to have a plaster problem 44 feet in the air. We don’t want that.”
    Harris estimates the Orpheum’s renovation costs at between $700,000 and $750,000. Add in the additional two pieces of adjacent property the church purchased and the price tag climbs to around $850,000.
    The former Singer building will serve as the church’s children’s area. The future of the other building, located between the Singer building and the entrance to the Orpheum, has not been determined because of its structural issues.
    “We’ve been talking to people and getting some estimates on maybe replacing the front facade, since it’s not safe and sound, and continuing to use the building. We’ve also talked about what it would take to take the building down. We’ve had different options on the table,” said Harris.
    Page 2 of 2 - Room to grow
    The Crossing Church in Hannibal has been meeting at the YMCA since May 1, 2011. Attendance at the new church has been strong. Last week’s worship drew a total of 382 people.
    “We’re really, really thankful for that (YMCA) and for the people that are showing up, signing up, working and being a part of it,” said Harris.
    When it opens the Orpheum will offer 939 seats, with space for additional seating in the back half of the balcony.
    “We’ve got plenty of room to grow,” said Harris.
    Last October, Harris hoped worship services would be occurring at the Orpheum by Easter 2012. However, he views it not being quite ready as a plus instead of a setback.
    “We’re going to get a big crowd for Easter. We may have 7,000 people at all our locations. In Hannibal we’ll probably have more than 500 people for Easter,” he said. “If you try to stack them (Easter and the Orpheum’s first service) on one another you’re only getting one opportunity. But if you have Easter, which is already going to be a big event, and then a grand opening, you have two opportunities to meet people and develop a relationship.”
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