Each year, the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation recognizes the state’s ten most endangered historic properties in order to draw attention to the importance of historical preservation for our rich and varied history. The vanishing Louisiana coastline is perenially named in addition to the ten properties, given its critical importance to both our history and future. Last Sunday, the Louisiana Trust honored the City of Alexandria by identifying three local properties as being among the state’s most endangered this year.
The three local properties are the old Cotton Brothers Bakery Building, Mount Shiloh Baptist Church, and the Thompson-Hargis Mansion. The three are described in detail in a new brochure by the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission.
- The Cotton Brothers Bakery Building
This building, with its bold lines, asymmetrical composition and horizontal emphasis, is an excellent example of the Art Deco style popular in the late 1920s and 1930s. There are very few remaining examples of this style in Alexandria. The Cotton Brothers built the structure in 1932 to house their bakery. Upon relocation of the bakery in 1957, the building was expanded and made the headquarters of the Continental Southern Bus Lines, forerunner of Continental Trailways.
In February 2007, a local demolition contractor purchased the building and after failing to sell the property began demolition. Quick action by the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission succeeded in delaying the demolition while efforts are made to locate a purchaser and develop a restoration plan. That process is ongoing and the outcome is not yet certain. The fate of this magnificent structure hangs in the balance.
- Mount Shiloh Baptist Church
The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church was organized in June 1882. The site of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Alexandria has been a meeting place for the congregation ever since. The present brick building was built in 1904 in the Renaissance Revival style. The congregation has relocated to another building and the church is listed with a local realtor. However, the congregation fully supports preservation of the church and would like to see an adaptive re-use of the building. Through grants and community support, the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission hopes to find an investor willing to preserve the cultural and architectural integrity of this important building.
- The Thompson-Hargis Mansion
Built in 1907, the grand Thompson-Hargis Mansion in Alexandria is a fine example of Greek Revival residential architecture, a style that remained popular and fashionable well into the 20th Century. It is regarded as one of the finest homes in Alexandria, one of four within a two-block area known as “Mansion Row.”
The home was occupied by descendants of the original owners. Mr. And Mrs. B.F. Thompson, Sr., until 1993 and is still owned by the family. Unoccupied for almost 15 years, the home is threatened by severe neglect. Surrounded by deteriorating bungalows built in the early 1900s, preservation of the Thompson-Hargis Mansion would be the catalyst to revitalization of the entire Florence Avenue area.
The other properties recognized this year are Baton Rouge Magnet High School, the Bridges-McKellar House (Shreveport), Badin-Roque (Natchez), Dark Store (Natchitoches), Beauregard Parish Jail (DeRidder), Shushan Airport Terminal Complex (New Orleans), and the Vida Shaw Swing Bridge (New Iberia Parish).
The Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission presented a great slideshow in today’s City Council Economic Development Committee meeting. Their website has a number of archived photographs, such as the two below.
Not to leave anyone out, the three photos below, among many others, can be found at the Louisiana History Museum’s Picture of the Week online archive.
Alexandria Electric Railway Co. (prior to 1915).
The Bauer and Weil General Merchandise Store (circa 1880-90).
This picture was on many of Alexandria postcards up until the 1920’s (circa 1900).