Bijou Theatre

1906–1910


East side of S Burdick St., north of South St.

Built and run as a vaudeville house from January 22, 1906 to the end of April 1908.

Renamed Bijou Dream and run mostly as a film theater from May 26, 1908 to January 1910.

W.S. Butterfield transferred his holdings in the Bijou Dream to E.N. Fields, effective October 20, 1909.

Postcard view of S. Burdick St. looking north, c.1906. Bijou Theatre circled (note rooftop sign). Private collection.
Postcard view of S. Burdick St. looking south, c.1907. Bijou Theatre lower left. Private collection.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 1908 (Library of Congress).

“The management of the Bijou Theater of this city promises to keep vaudeville on the high plane set in the large cities and gives the assurance that all classes of theatergoers in Kalamazoo can feel perfectly safe in securing their children or taking their wives or sweethearts to the offerings of this house.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, January 21, 1906

Bijou Dream c. 1908–1910. Kalamazoo Gazette photo (Local History Room).

Bijou Theatre (1906–1908)

“A deal was closed yesterday through the real estate firm of W.L. Turner & company, whereby W.S. Butterfield of Battle Creek, manager of the Bijou theater in that city, and a member of the Consolidated Vaudeville Managers’ association, secured a five years’ lease on the property at 145 S. Burdick St., owned by Ira A. Ransom and occupied by Jacob DeKam as a plumbing establishment, and will erect at once on the site a theater devoted exclusively to vaudeville, at a cost of from $12,000 to $15,000, to be known as the Bijou theater.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, December 7, 1905, p.5

The following excerpt is from an article published in the Kalamazoo Gazette in January 1906. It gives a decent description of the interior of the Bijou Theater at the time of its public opening, as well as a list of those who were involved. (all sic.)

“Executive Staff of the Bijou

The executive staff of the Bijouo theater is as follows:

W.W. Potts, local manager.
Miss Jennie Thurston, treasurer.
Ed Makins, pianist.
George Otterbach, electrical operator.
G.W. Haines, stage manager.
Charles Sumption, doorkeeper.
Louis Lehmann, illustrated songs.

In regard to the class of entertainments to be given by the Bijou, Mr. Butterfield says in a pamphlet which he is sending out through the mails to Kalamazoo people:

“The management of the Bijou Theater of this city promises to keep vaudeville on the high plane set in the large cities and gives the assurance that all classes of theatergoers in Kalamazoo can feel perfectly safe in securing their children or taking their wives or sweethearts to the offerings of this house.”

Now that the Bijou is practically completed a brief description of the cozy little amusement place may be of interest to our readers.

The entrance is at 145 S. Burdick St.— ground floor — through what was formerly the plumbing establishment of Jacob DeKam. This space, 65×12½ feet, has been converted into an attractive lobby, wainscoated to a height of about four feet and papered in red. At the entrance is an open space about six or eight feet deep, for the display of picture boards and advertising matter. The doors leading into the lobby are of the heavy swinging sort, with plate glass — the same, in fact, as those at the Academy.

Blazing Electric Sign.

The front of the theater is painted white, and directly above, on top of the block, is a huge electric sign which reads:

BIJOU

At the right, as one enters the lobby is the cigar and candy stand. L.L. Fuller of this city has the concession.

On the same side and just beyond is the ticket office, which will be presided over by Miss Jennie Thurston.

The entrance to the theater proper is through two big swinging doors, making both a wide entrance and exit.

The theater, as yet, has not been decorated, the walls being plain white. Later on they will be done in colors. The floor slants toward the stage and the view will be excellent from any seat in the house. There are 430 seats on the first floor. These seats are Andrews opera chairs, attached to the floor, and are very comfortable to sit in.

The balcony, which is easy of access, will seat about 250, bench seats are being used there. The view from the balcony is equally as good and in the dress circle.

Chandelier is a Beauty.

From the dome of the theater is suspended a beautiful lacquered brass chandelier, which adds much to the attractiveness of the place.

The stage is 18×20 feet, which is plenty large enough to accommodate any ordinary vaudeville act. On either side of the stage are two second-story dressing rooms reached by stairs. This gives one dressing room to those taking part in each one of the fours acts.

The theater is heated by steam, the heat coming from batteries of radiators on the side walls.

The house is well lighted and the electrical arrangements are entirely adequate.

On the whole, the Bijou is a very neat little theater. Well built, comfortably furnished and should prove a paying venture for Mr. Butterfield and all concerned.

Complete it cost in the neighborhood of $15,000. It was built in connection with property owned by Ira W. Ransom. Frank W. Flaitz handled the contract and did an expeditious and first-class job.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, January 21, 1906, p. 3.

Bijou Dream (1908–1910)

Renamed and reopened as Bijou Dream from May 26, 1908 to January 1910, with one hour 5¢ motion picture shows and illustrated songs (solo singer accompanying “magic lantern” projected slides). Managed by singer Will J. Dickey, who was formerly “connected with the Will Rossiter Music Publishing house in Chicago as a demonstrator of songs — that is, he taught professionals how they should be sung — Dickey has been connected with amusement enterprises for many years” (Gazette).

“The Bijou Dream establishes a new precedent in the five-cent picture business locally, offering as it does, a full hour’s show for five cents. The Bijou Dream is well ventilated, being supplied with a new model cooling machine.”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 26, 1908, p.2

“The illustrated singers will be Burton Lenihan, the well known baritone who has appeared at numerous concerts as soloist with Fischer’s orchestra — and Will J. Dickey will also be heard in song numbers. Mrs. Dickey — is an accomplished pianist and will assist in that capacity in the theater. The picture machine operator, an expert, will be brought from Chicago. A trap drummer, also an expert in playing for moving pictures, comes from the Orpheum theater, Chicago. Miss Gladys Blodgett of this city will be the ticket seller and Frank Hoffman the door man.” (Gazette)

Sources

Information originally compiled in 1995 by J.P. Jenks. Additional information was later added by library staff. Information compiled from Kalamazoo City Directory listings, details obtained in researching newspaper reports published at the time by the Kalamazoo Gazette and Kalamazoo Telegraph Press, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Kalamazoo County Warranty Deeds and numerous other sources. Updated March 2019.


Additional Resources

Books

A History of Theater in Kalamazoo

Pixley, Jorge V., 1958
H 792 P694

Theater in Kalamazoo from 1860–1890

Johns, Marion, 1955
H 792 J65


Articles

“Theater For Vaudeville”

Kalamazoo Evening Telegraph, December 6, 1905, p.1

“Kazoo To Have New Theater”

Kalamazoo Gazette, December 7, 1905, p.5

“All In Readiness For Bijou Opening”

Kalamazoo Gazette, January 21, 1906, p.3

“‘Bijou Dream’ to Open on Monday”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 23, 1908, p.3

“Opening Delayed Until This Evening”

Kalamazoo Gazette, May 26, 1908, p.2

“Kalamazoo’s Amusement Houses This City Regarded as Best ‘Show Town’ in Michigan Outside of Detroit”

Kalamazoo Gazette, June 19, 1912, p.24


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Theater
Subject File: Elite Theater
Subject File: Majestic Theater

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