History · Vancouver

When the Bijou is not the Bijou…

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This image has bugged me for some time. It is a Vancouver Archives photo (CVA 371-2061) showing the Bijou Theatre. But it’s not the Vancouver Bijou which was on Carrall near Hastings facing what is now Pigeon Park.

Looking at the image, which shows the aftermath of a flood, you can see a sign for the Pabst Hotel in the Brown Brother’s Building and the furniture store next door. None of these details match the building in Vancouver.

Here’s the Vancouver theatre in a detail from an Archives photo (Str p416) taken in 1908, showing the building next to its neighbour the Louvre Hotel.

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And the theatre just before it was demolished in the 1940s, showing the expanded building which incorporated a portion of the Louvre.

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A little bit of searching for the Pabst Hotel (far less hotels with that name than Bijou theatres) turns up a reference for a hotel of the same name on Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota. The newspaper article detailed the arrest of a clairvoyant who operated out of the Pabst Hotel at 10 East Superior Street. When looking up East Superior Street, there is a reference in a 1910 paper for the Empress Theatre part of the Sullivan and Considine Vaudeville circuit, that had been known as the Bijou.

Off to the Duluth history sites and in short order on zenithcity.com we find this description: “The Bijou Theatre stood at 12 East Superior Street and operated as part of the Sullivan and Considine vaudeville circuit from 1903 until 1911, when it became the  Empress Theatre. The Empress burned in May of 1915, and the building was converted for retail sales; it is now home to the Electric Fetus”

The photograph on the site from the Duluth Public Library confirms that the Bijou shown in the Archives image above is indeed located in Duluth. Except for the canopy with the Empress name the rest of the details are identical to the Archives image. The Duluth Bijou was designed by the architect William Allen Hunt.

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The flood shown in the Archives image turns out to be a 1909 incident which broke rainfall records and caused considerable damage in the town. At the Bijou Theatre, water had entered the building and was cascading down the aisles, causing a panic. It was rumoured that the flood interrupted a performance by Al Jolson.

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