Nestled in the heart of Orlando, the Beacham Theater stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant entertainment history. Constructed in 1921 by Braxton Beacham Sr., this iconic venue has witnessed decades of performances, from vaudeville stars in the 1920s to iconic musicians like B.B. King, Ray Charles, and The Police. Today, operating as The Beacham, the venue has evolved into a thriving nightclub and live music destination. Its journey from a theater to a modern entertainment destination has been a rich tapestry of history and cultural significance.
Image: The Beacham Theater
Source: Cinema Treasures
Braxton Beacham Sr., born in Dublin, Georgia, in 1864, made his way to Florida in 1883. He initially settled in Maitland before eventually finding his home in the City of Orlando. Working as a clerk in a dry goods store, Beacham soon turned his attention to real estate. He went on to become a prominent landowner, particularly in timber land and orange groves in Orange and Seminole counties, and a pig farm in Alachua County.
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Beacham made a mark in Orlando’s political landscape. He served as the 18th mayor of Orlando from 1906 to 1907, contributing to the city’s growth and development during his tenure.
The Beacham Theater itself holds a unique place in Orlando’s history. The venue was built on the grounds of the former Orange County Jail. Opening on December 9, 1921, the Beacham boasted 1,097 seats. For the first 30 days, it showed only movies, but it adapted into a stage for both vaudeville performances and movie screenings after that.
Image: Full page ad of The Beacham in the December 8, 1921 issue of the Evening Reporter Star.
Source: Orlando Memory
An intriguing legend surrounds the theater, suggesting that performers could use a trap door tunnel to discreetly escape to the nearby Angebilt Hotel after their shows. Another legend suggests this tunnel was used during the prohibition era to hide illegal alcohol.
Image: San Juan hotel and the Beacham, circa 1920
Source: Florida Memory
Over the years, the Beacham underwent several transformations. In 1933, it was leased to the Florida State Theatres, shifting its focus solely to movie screenings. A renovation in 1936 brought air conditioners, improved seating, and expanded auditorium space, further enhancing the theater’s appeal. On December 25, 1964, the venue was transformed into a Cinerama theater. In 1987, the building was officially granted local landmark status, preserving its historical significance for generations to come.
Image: The Beacham as featured in the December 1922 issue of the Orlando Magazine.
Source: Orlando Memory
Today, as The Beacham, the venue thrives as a bustling nightclub and live music destination. While its purpose has evolved, the historical legacy of the Beacham remains etched in the hearts of Orlando’s residents and visitors. This iconic landmark stands as a symbol of the city’s rich entertainment heritage, a testament to the dedication and vision of Braxton Beacham Sr., and a source of joy and cultural vibrancy for all who step through its doors.
Image: The Beacham
Join our newsletter list to stay up to date on the exciting things happening within the district, in downtown Orlando.