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Bijou Fire

3/13/2015:

On this date in 1909, residents of Grand Forks lamented the loss of the Bijou Theater. A fire had occurred the night before, just after the box office opened to sell tickets for the evening performances. The Bijou, owned and operated by Mrs. R. Feldkirchner, had a lot of patronage, so it was lucky that it occurred before the building became crowded. The fire stemmed from the explosion of a heater in the basement dressing rooms. The flames shot upward, burning through the stage.

The Grand Forks Evening Times reported that the "work of the fire department was nothing short of remarkable, the Bijou theater building being a frame structure and the fire itself hard to get at." Chief Runge and his team from the fire department aimed six streams of water on the blaze, keeping the fire from spreading to adjoining buildings. The paper reported that the force of the water was at times "so strong that the hose couplings were forced apart and people standing on DeMers Avenue watching the fire came near being drenched." The only other building damaged was the photo gallery of G. G. Grove, and even that was slight.

Within the theater, little was saved. The vaudeville teams playing there lost part of their wardrobes. The film machinery was destroyed and so were two pianos.

The upstairs had been fitted out as a living compartment, and Mrs. Feldkirchner lost furniture, clothing, and several musical instruments. The overall loss was reported as almost total, estimated at $6,000 to $7,000.

However, in less than seventy-two hours, Mrs. Feldkirchner re-opened her Bijou theater – at a different location. The Bijou's new home was Jack's rink – a roller rink.

Mrs. Feldkirchner made these plans even as her theater was burning. She wired immediately for new scenery for an imminent vaudeville performance. She also arranged for new moving picture machines and new films.

The newspaper reported that getting this all arranged in such a short time was thanks to Mrs. Feldkirchner, who was "indeed deserving of credit for her great persistency and progressiveness in providing for Grand Forks amusement seekers."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources:

The Evening Times (Grand Forks), March 13, 1909, p5; March 15, 1909, p5