KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Bijou Theatre’s original owner, C.B. Adkin, had a desire to bring the European theater to Knoxville. So he bought the Lamar House and tore off the back wing to create the Bijou Theatre in 1909.
Adkin also wanted his theater to be integrated.
“He knew that when he was constructing the hotel that he wanted to make the Bijou the first integrated business in Knoxville,” said Courtney Bergmeier, the Bijou executive director. “So, knowing that, he built a second balcony that a lot of people don’t know exists upstairs. It’s not currently in use because it was physically segregated from the rest of the building.
“It was the first time everyone could see the same show, under the same roof at the same time, but unfortunately not in the same spaces.”
In addition to the balcony, there was also a separate entrance on Cumberland Avenue and a box office for the African American community. This separation is why the theater does not use the space for seating right now. In fact, it is used to hang light fixtures for the stage.