The building that has been home to the Electric Fetus music and gift store since 1987 was once a theater. From 1903 to 1911 the Bijou Theatre operated at 12 E. Superior St. until it was renamed the Empress Theatre. It burned in 1915, but the structure survived and was converted to retail.
The photos in this post were shot by Hugh McKenzie. The one up top shows the theater operating among other businesses on the stretch. To the right is M. Bolin Millinery in the Brown Brothers Block, a location that is now a small plaza with an entrance to the Duluth Lakewalk. To the left is the St. Paul Cafe restaurant, later the location of the Strand Theater and now the location of the western end of the Wieland Block.
The life of the Empress came to an end in May 1915. Following a controversial spat between owner W. M. Abrahamson and the Manhattan Opera Company, a fire ravaged the building. The newspaper clips below are from Nanci and Allan Garon’s website.
Below is a shot of the smoky blaze that ended the Empress Theatre’s short run.
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