The Foundation for Historical Louisiana will honor the people, developers and organizations that have saved old buildings and sites at its 2015 Preservation Awards on Thursday, July 16.
“The awards are presented to dedicated individuals and groups whose professional work, volunteer efforts and mission have aided in making the past known and useful to the present,” said FHL Chairman Mark Upton.
In addition to recognizing preservationists, honors to be presented include the Bricks and Mortar Award, The Phoenix Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award.
This year’s winners include cultural preservationists:
Ernest and Dianne Gaines for preservation of the church and cemetery at River Lake Plantation, the author’s boyhood home and setting for several of his novels
Shell Chemical Co. for restoration of Ashland-Belle Helene Planation home near Geismar in Ascension Parish
Weinstein Nelson Developers and Dyke Nelson Architecture for restoration and repurposing its midcentury modern bank building into 440 on Third, a commercial and residential property
John and Donna Cummings for the development of Whitney Plantation in St. John the Baptist Parish, which is dedicated to the history of slave life
The Phoenix Award will be presented for the restoration of the Dupree Apartments in Historic Spanish Town, under the direction of Ben Stalter, a partner with Maestri Murrell commercial real estate; Robert Lay, managing director at Tempus Capital Partners; Coleman Partners Architects; Carter Hill Construction; and Vision City Development Group.
The Bricks and Mortar Award will be given to the West Baton Rouge Parish Museum for the restoration of the Mercantile Store at Arbroth Plantation.
The Volunteer of the Year will be presented to Lynda Hargroder.
The awards are selected by an FHL special committee from nominations made by the public and the FHL Board of Directors and professional staff.
“It’s gratifying that there are so many deserving nominations. There is a particularly diverse and remarkable list of winners this year,” said FHL Executive Director Carolyn Bennett.
The firm of Stone Pigman Walther Wittman are underwriters of this year’s awards.
Arbroth Mercantile Plantation Store
The Bricks and Mortar Award is being presented to the West Baton Rouge Museum for saving, preserving and restoring Arbroth Plantation’s Mercantile Store, which was moved in 2009 to the museum’s grounds in Port Allen and opened as an exhibit in 2011.
The store and its contents were donated to the museum by Joanne Busse and family, who wanted to see the store saved to help tell the story of Louisiana plantation life. The store dates to the 1840s, when Lewis Stirling built a cotton plantation in Bueche, calling it Arbroth in honor of his cousin’s home in Scotland. It was a grocery store and post office from about the 1880s to 1980s. After years of neglect, the museum was offered the store and its contents in 2007. A year later, Hurricane Gustav damaged about a quarter of the store, but much of it was salvaged. Buddy Ragland, of Coleman Partners Architects of Baton Rouge, provided pro bono advice on how to move and restore the building. Additional donations were made by Dykes Electric, A-1 Heating and Air, the Port Allen Rotary Club and Union Pacific Railroad. The restoration and adaption was completed in 2015. Visitors to the Arbroth Mercantile Plantation Store will see what the store looked like between 1917 and 1945. They also can learn about the history of the plantation.
Shell Chemical Co. is being honored for saving this impressive example of American Greek Revival-style architecture. Duncan F. Kenner originally built the plantation around 1840, and it’s one of the largest plantation houses in Louisiana. In the 1870s, the plantation was about 3,500 acres and produced about 390 pounds of sugar. Shell purchased the house and property, which is located near a plant site, and about six months ago, the company began restoring it.
Shell has added a new roof, repaired the railings and porches, and completed extensive renovations to the exterior and interior of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On June 9, the company revealed Ashland-Belle Helene to the community. Shell employees will use the plantation for meetings and other company events.
Tempus Capital Partners is being recognized for saving the apartments in the Spanish Town area of Baton Rouge.
Originally constructed in 1924, the twin duplex apartment buildings with stucco finishes were fine examples of Mission architecture containing one apartment unit on each floor. A few original distinctive decorative exterior elements still survive, including iridescent green decorative tiles and matching green glazed roof tiles on the covered entrances to the upstairs apartments. Built by Thomas Byrd Dupree, the buildings were considered as the “most attractive and up-to-date duplex apartment houses” when completed in 1924.
In the 1970s, the original two-bedroom apartments were subdivided into small studios. In 2009, the structure at 607 and 609 Spanish Town Road suffered extensive fire damage. It sat vacant and continued to deteriorate for the next five years. Preservation advocates and the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association fought to find an entrepreneur and preservation advocate to restore the buildings back into commerce.
In 2014, a team of young local entrepreneurs began work to restore both buildings to their original condition. Under the direction of Ben Stalter, a partner with Maestri Murrell commercial real estate, and Robert Lay, managing director at Tempus Capital Partners, the buildings on the corner of North Sixth Street and Spanish Town Road will be completed this month. Buddy Ragland, of Coleman Partners Architects, Carter Hill, of Carter Hill Construction, and Derek Fitch, of Vision City Development Group, also were instrumental in the rehabilitation of the project.
Mount Zion Baptist Church and Cemetery
Ernest and Dianne Gaines are being honored for preservation of Mount Zion Baptist Church and Cemetery at River Lake Plantation in Oscar.
Ernest Gaines has a long-standing connection with the plantation, as five generations of his family, including himself, worked and lived on the historic Pointe Coupee property. He and his wife began tending to the cemetery before they purchased property at River Lake and moved back there more than a decade ago.
In 1996, the Gaineses established the Mount Zion River Lake Cemetery Association, a nonprofit corporation. Ernest Gaines’ aunt, Augusteen Jefferson, who raised him, is buried in the cemetery. The Gaineses also restored and moved the church onto the site. The church was built in the 1930s, and Ernest Gaines was taught in the Mount Zion Baptist Church, which also served as a school.
A world-renowned author, Ernest Gaines has received numerous literary awards. In his work, he has drawn inspiration from his years of growing up on a working plantation. He is the author of “A Lesson Before Dying” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Each year on the Saturday before All Saints’ Day, friends and family spend the day cleaning and painting the graves.
440 on Third
Weinstein Nelson Developers and Dyke Nelson Architecture are being honored for renovating what was once a downtown Baton Rouge bank into a residential and commercial space.
440 on Third has a long-standing history in the Capital City. In 1957, Fidelity National Bank constructed the building in a Mid City Modern architectural style. Most recently, Capital One bank occupied the eight-story building. It has been renovated, preserving the building’s high ceilings and magnificent lobby. There are 65 apartments and 65,000 square feet of commercial and office space. Matherne’s Supermarket now occupies the ground floor and showcases the bank’s old safe in its deli section.
John and Donna Cummings are being recognized for restoring and revitalizing Whitney Plantation in Wallace.
Unlike other plantation homes, Whitney tells the story of slavery. German immigrants originally purchased the land where Whitney plantation stands, located on River Road in Wallace in 1752. After the Civil War in 1876, Bradish Johnson, of New York, acquired the property and named it after his grandson, Harry Whitney. A petrochemical company acquired the property in 1990, planning to convert the land to a factory. Public protests thwarted the company’s plans.
Donna and John Cummings, a former New Orleans trial lawyer, purchased the 250-acre plantation in the late 1990s. They restored the original structures on the plantation and moved buildings, including a church, onto the grounds, to educate visitors about slavery. On Dec. 7, 2014, the plantation opened to the public for the first time in more than 250 years and attracted national media attention.
Volunteer of the Year
Lynda Hargroder will be honored as FHL’s Volunteer of the Year. As a member of FHL’s Board of Directors since 2013, she is the steward of the Old Governor’s Mansion, which is the foundation’s headquarters. She also has been a docent at the mansion for about 10 years and has been a part of FHL’s Lagnaippe Tours for two years. The Baton Rouge resident formerly lived in New Orleans, where she was an intensive care nurse at Charity Hospital.