Bijou Photoplays 
Hammond, Indiana
1903 - 1923

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    Bijou Theater brought vaudeville, silent films to Hammond

By Sue Ellen Ross
Post-Tribune correspondent

HAMMOND — Many years before talking motion pictures came to down­town Hammond, theaters that popped up in the early part of the 20th century held a fascination for area residents.

     The Bijou Theater, 173 State St.,
operated from 1909 to 1923. Owned by the Van Sickle family and located across the street from the Edward C. Minas department store, the venue offered mostly live vaudeville enter­tainment in the early years. Later, silent films came on the scene. 

In 1913, musical products for the­aters were introduced, but not many were ordered. The Bijou was ahead of its time, as the owners installed a Bar-tola, a special-effects instrument oper­ated by a series of on-off switches. A two-octave keyboard placed above the top octave on the piano played bells and chimes. 

While the pianist played the bells and chimes with his right hand, he also played the lower octaves of the piano with the left hand. 

   The Van Sickle family opened another nearby business, Bartola's Theater, which used its namesake instrument. It was around the corner from the Bijou. 

Employee Clem Goyke played this first piano-organ until 1925, when he moved on to the Indiana Theater in Indiana Harbor to play a Wurlitzer organ. 

Another first for the Bijou was the use of an electric projection machine. This meant no more hand-cranking. 

    In 1926, the State Theater opened down the street from the Bijou. On Nov. 8,1927, an explosion caused extensive damage to the theater and All Saints Church across the street. According to archives at the Hammond Public Library, an investigation revealed that dynamite with a mercury switch was the cause. It had been set under a chair in the theater. 

Eventually, two men were jailed for the crime, and it was rumored that this act of sabotage was carried out by persons associated with a nearby theater, rumored to be the Bijou.