[Click for a larger view and you’ll see the apostrophe: LADIES’.]
The Oxford English Dictionary dates retiring room to 1621: “The Prynce came and wente into his retyringe roomes, and having putt on his roabes went and mett the King.” The term first denoted “a room set aside for seclusion, rest, or quiet.” And “(in later use also) a public toilet.” Retiring room is a polite way to say powder room.
These words appear on the inside men’s-room door in the Orpheum Theatre in Champaign, Illinois. In 1994, the building got a new life as the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum. Our fambly had a private tour many years ago, courtesy of a former babysitter working at the museum. The lobby area then housed the museum, which we called Heather’s Museum. The theater itself was then a pre-restoration wreck. I remember paint peeling from every surface. We stood on the stage and climbed to the projection room and felt very privileged indeed. Thank you, Heather.
This past Saturday the Orpheum Theatre was the setting for a terrific concert by the Prairie Ensemble. The theater itself is now restored — beautiful details everywhere. I am glad that those responsible for the restoration had the good sense to preserve the lettering on this repurposed door.
Monday, February 24, 2014
By Michael Leddy at 8:49 AM