Clark Theater bombming

Damage to the Clark Theatre was extensive after a bomb went off at 2:20 a.m. May 28, 1931. Photo from ‘Louisiana’ by Betty Jane Allen and Martha Sue Smith and courtesy of John Wood and the Louisiana Press-Journal.

Editor’s note: Following is a condensed version of a story by award-winning print and broadcast journalist, author and public relations professional Brent Engel, and is available free in its entirety at the Louisiana Area Historical Museum, 304 Georgia Street. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays beginning May 29.

 

It’s been 90 years since a big “kaboom” rocked Louisiana, and no one has been brought to justice.

A tremendous explosion decimated the newly opened Clark Theatre on the southeast corner of Fourth and Georgia streets in downtown Louisiana.

It happened at 2:20 a.m. Thursday, May 28, 1931. No one was killed or injured, but the blast remains a mystery.

A Louisiana night watchman reported spotting two men in a parked car on the otherwise vacant street near the theater 35 minutes before the explosion, but did not question them.

Dynamite placed at the Clark’s front door tore a three-foot hole in the sidewalk. An iron pillar was the only thing holding up the second floor after concrete a foot thick was blown away.

Plaster, glass and splinters were everywhere, and at least 35 businesses and apartments within a block along Georgia Street had damage.

The Clark was an elegant theater with a capacity of 541 people. It was housed in the former Parks Music House building.

The theater’s owner blamed gangsters for the bombing, but no suspects were caught. Damage was estimated at what would today be more than $165,000. Renovations began five days later and the theater re-opened on June 6.

The Clark wasn’t the only game in town—or even within a block. The Lou-Mo Theatre opened on the southeast corner of Fifth and Georgia 15 days before the Clark, but only lasted about a year. The most recent business to occupy the site was Pikers restaurant.

The Clark fared better, showing films through World War II and into the 1960s. The building was destroyed by fire in 1987, but the site for more than 20 years was the home of a Burlington Northern Railroad caboose.

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