Friday, May 11, 2012

Tony Heinsbergen

I am still talking about entertainment and the Orpheum theatre. Today I want to talk about the gentleman who was instrumental in creating the extravagant interior, Tony Heinsbergen.

Antoon Heinsbergen was born on December 13, 1894 in Harlaam in the Netherlands. When he was eleven years old, Heinsbergen quit school to become an apprentice to an artist-restorter. That was the same year that the elder Heinsbergen immigrated to the United States.

Two years later, a thirteen-year-old Antoon and the rest of his family followed his father. In fact, as Tony Heinsbergen would later tell a reporter, they arrived in Los Angeles on his 13th birthday. A decorative painting contractor hired the young Heinsbergen as an apprentice.

Heinsbergen was good at what he did. By the age of 15 he was supervising the decoration in the homes of the wealthy. Though when necessary he would call on the foreman to act as supervisor since most people didn't have the faith in a 15-year-old boy to be in charge.

In 1922, at the age of 27, Tony Heinsbergen opened the A.T. Heinsbergen Decorating Company in Los Angeles. (There is a photo of the office building he used on the History of Metropolitan Vancouver Website. This building is now on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places.)

At the peak of this company's history, A.T. Heinsbergen Decorating Company employed more than 100 artists and craftsmen. These artistic people were responsible for decorating many hundreds of buildings, including the famous Los Angeles City Hall.

The first time that Heinsbergen decorated the Orpheum Theatre in 1927, he was in his early thirties but already a seasoned decorator.

By 1924 when Heinsbergen was approached by Alexander Pantages to design the interiors of Pantage's vaudeville houses, Heinsbergen had already established a reputation as a peerless decorator. Heinsbergen went on to design the interiors of hundreds of theatres in Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is estimated that approximately 200 of these theatres still survive today.

As I have mentioned, Tony Heinsbergen not only decorated the interior of the Orpheum in 1927 but he was also commissioned in 1977 when the theatre got a face lift.

The way that happened is that Paul Merrick, the architect who was in charge of the 1976 restoration, went to Seattle to speak to those in the firm of the original architect - B. Marcus Priteca - they informed him that the original decorator was still alive. So Merrick went to Los Angeles to meet with Heinsbergen.

Orpheus, the Greek god that the Orpheum circuit was named after, is associated with music and the Orpheum theatre was to become the home for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This delighted Heinsbergen and he conceived a large mural that would celebrate music. It would be oval in shape and it would surround the massive chandelier in the center of the auditorium's ceiling.

This mural would be Heinsbergen's 751st project. However, a mural wasn't in the budget.

On that note, I am going to leave you for the weekend. On Monday, I will finish telling you about Heinsbergen, the mural and other stuff. Until then, I hope you find the beauty around you.

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