The State Theater
Hammond, Indiana 
1921 - 1980
  

 

 

The State Theater began in a whirlpool of controversy. Seventeen months after it was built and opened, someone planted a bomb near the center of the main floor and destroyed the facility at 3:00 a.m. on November 8, 1928.  As you can see from the many theaters in downtown Hammond, there was a lot of competition. Some felt that the Bijou Photoplay Theater was responsible for the bombing. The Bijou was located just two blocks away on State Street. Finally it was solved when it was learned that lessee hired someone because he could not afford the lease payments on the building. See articles below.

State Theater - 564 State Street - Hammond, IN 46320

     Opened on 26th August 1926, the State Theatre on State Street in downtown Hammond was the largest of several movie palaces in the city when it opened, and, at over 3000 seats, one of the largest in Indiana at the time. It was built by the Karzas brothers who operated the Trianon and Aragon Ballrooms in Chicago.

     Lavishly appointed inside, complete with an Italian Renaissance terra-cotta facade, the State Theatre not only offered motion pictures, but live stage shows as well.

     The State Building, besides housing the State Theatre, also contained the Granada Ballroom (which later became a roller skating rink), several storefronts, and office space on the upper floors.

     Unfortunately, this beautiful movie house's career would be extremely short-lived, since an bomb exploded on 8th November 1927, all but obliterating the theater auditorium, which was eventually demolished. The Granada Ballroom suffered some damage, and was closed for a while but re-opened after some time.

     Retail would eventually fill up the former theater lobby space, including a supermarket, a furniture store and a laundromat. In 1943, a blaze destroyed the former Granada Ballroom and the supermarket on the ground floor below it.

     In 1947, the city ordered the building's owner to have the huge vertical marquee, several stories tall, torn down, due to its starting to become unstable.

     The State Building was razed in 1967 to make way for the main Hammond Public Library building, which opened in 1968.

Source: Cinema Treasures

This interior picture taken by O.W. Bodie shows the extent of the devastation.

 

 

Growing up in Hammond in the '20s

Maurice O'Hern was born and raised in Hammond, working as an engineer at American Steel Foundries for 25 years, then at Purdue University Calumet and Bishop Noll Institute. Maurice passed away March 30, 1999, at the age of 84. Before his death he shared his memories and provided research and guidance to The Times as a member of the Times Capsule advisory board.

His interest in local history led him to write articles on growing up in the 1920s, the American Steel Foundries, Hammond's theaters and theater organist John Muri. Maurice not only researched the history of Hammond's theaters, he lived it. He was a frequent customer of the Bijou -- because it played more cowboy movies than "boring" romances. He saw, and even petted, Rin Tin Tin -- in the lobby of the Parthenon theater when the large German shepherd was a movie star. He vividly remembers going to All Saints Church to serve Mass on Nov. 8, 1927, and, when he saw no one around, seeing the State Theater across the street had been bombed.

 

The State Theater building was eventually taken down to make room for Hammond's new public library building that now
occupies the site.

     
                                                                                                                

 

 

  

 

          (Photos courtesy of the Calumet Archives, Indiana University Northwest and O.W. Bodie.)