KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Bijou Theatre is celebrating 112 years in Knoxville but the building that houses the theatre is much older. The theater grew out of the Lamar House, a hotel that was built in 1816.
The hotel was the premiere hotel of its time according to Bijou Executive Director Courtney Bergmeier. It housed guest rooms, a tavern, and a carriage house. During the Civil War, it became a hospital treating soldiers from both sides. In 1909, the theater was added on. It also adapted with the times and added electricity when it became available.
“The theater kind of fell into decline and was purchased by CB Atkin, who was a railroad man at the turn of the century, and he decided he wanted to bring the European stage to Knoxville, so he tore off the rear wing of the hotel and plopped this theater onto the back of it,” Bergmeier said.
If you are outside the Bijou, you can see the white front and the brick addition showing where the hotel once stood and the auditorium was added on.