Bijou Theatre

245 Main Street,
Racine, WI 53403

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BIJOU Theatre; Racine, Wisconsin.

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Built within the 1858 McClurg Building, called the first fireproof structure in Wisconsin, it survived the Great Racine Fire of 1882. Shortly afterward it was sold to M. M. Secor and housed a bathhouse, legal offices, a courtroom, a bank that failed within a year, a library. By 1905 the building housed the Bijou Theatre, Racine’s first movie and vaudeville house, built by showman William C. Tiede who was also affiliated with the College Avenue Orpheum Theatre (qv). The Bijou Theatre’s first vaudeville card offered the Brandy and Wilson dance team, and its first film program was “The Great Train Robbery”.

By 1912 or so, the auditorium was converted to a restaurant; the building was sold to Peter Nelson by 1918, after which the building became the Nelson Hotel. It was restored in the 1980’s, and visitors who enter immediately notice the Bijou Theatre’s original balcony, which survives to this day.

Contributed by Lou Rugani
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