The Lamar House Hotel/Bijou Theatre is considered by the residents of Knoxville to be one of the finest historic buildings in the city and is possibly one of the oldest commercially active properties in Tennessee. Today, the Bijou functions as a performing arts center with seating for 750, with the Lamar House Hotel providing support space for theater operations. The complex was constructed in several phases: Lamar House was completed as a Georgian style residence/inn in 1817 and enlarged with two additions to the rear of the building in 1850-52. It was substantially remodeled with the construction of the Bijou Theatre in 1909, which replaced the earlier hotel additions and necessitated removal of the central bays of Lamar House to accommodate the theater’s lobby. Although some change has occurred within Lamar House over time, the complex overall reflects the 1909 changes and retains a good degree of architectural integrity.
Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC was retained by Bijou Theatre, Inc. to prepare a Historic Structure Report and Concept Design documents for the Lamar House Hotel/Bijou Theatre that allow the building to be preserved while upgrading its functionality to meet existing and future requirements. The design is focused on patron accessibility, safety, and comfort; technical performance upgrades within the Bijou Theatre; a more comprehensive utilization of Lamar House in support of the Bijou’s operation and programs; and the creation of a new addition to provide much needed support space. An existing restaurant housed in the ground floor of Lamar House is to be renovated to accommodate a new elevator and bar areas for the Bijou Theatre. A second underutilized balcony in the audience chamber is to be upgraded and made accessible to provide expanded seating opportunities in the theater.