Bijou Park officially opens to the public after ribbon cutting
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Downtown Wilmington’s Bijou Park officially opened to the public on Wednesday, Feb. 8 after a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the park and the completion of the Front St. rehabilitation project.
Bijou Park is located at 209 N Front St., between Chestnut and Grace streets.
Plans to improve the park were originally presented at a city council meeting in 2019. Finalizing the improvements took longer than expected due to supply chain issues. The City of Wilmington spent about $800,000 on the park, although it was originally supposed to be about $600,000.
Bijou Park was part of the Front Street rehabilitation project, which cost $3.5 million in total.
The initial idea to improve this park was for convenience and easy access.
“It was not an easy task to get from Front Street down to Water Street using Bijou Park. You could do it, but there was a narrow staircase you had to climb, or basically walk below a parking deck. It was just tough, particularly for a visitor,” said Dylan Lee, City of Wilmington spokesperson.
Now, it’s a wide open gateway that connects all of the businesses here on Front Street with those on Water Street and the Riverwalk.
The location used to be home to the Bijou Theatre, the first movie theatre in the city. The memory of the old theatre will be remembered through new artwork being placed throughout the park.
Bijou Theatre was also North Carolina’s first permanent “moving picture” theatre. It opened in 1906 as a tent with 300 folding chairs inside. In 1912, the doors to the first structured movie theatre opened to the public, and after 44 years, it was eventually shut down. It was then torn down in 1963.
Now the city has moved to honor that history, and people downtown are taking notice.
“Bijou Park I heard was the one of the grandest theatres that opened up here in the southeast. There is a plaque there that mentions the park and the history of it. It’s very interesting and people need to come and check it out,” said Michelle Hudson, who works in Wilmington.
The city decided to keep the only remaining piece of the theatre, which is the original floor. It can be found on the ground at the entrance of the park. It has the name “Bijou” spelled out in tiles.
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