The building housing Crowder Antiques in the Old Hotel in Denham Springs was officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Florence Crowder, whose research into the site of the former Brown Hotel contributed to the designation.
The National Register plaque was unveiled in a ceremony in early January, Crowder said.
Back in August, Crowder talked about the process of gathering the needed history and documentation for the National Register of Historic Places application.
She had to find records confirming the stories she’d heard about the old Brown Hotel, which now houses Crowder Antiques.
She needed to prove the building, which was built in 1927 at 114 N. Range Ave., Denham Springs, was important in the community’s history.
The building first housed the Brown Hotel and Café, which, in 1927, was the only hotel in Denham Springs, according to Crowder’s research.
William F. Brown, an Arkansas native who made his wealth in an oar manufacturing company founded around the turn of the 20th century, invested his money in the hotel and café, which he had built on the lot next to W.F. Brown & Sons Oar Co., according to Crowder’s application.
The adjacent railroad line spurred the success of Brown’s oar company, which, according to Crowder’s research, was among the largest of its kind in the state. Brown floated the logs to a mill pond located between the oar factory and the hotel, and this proximity — within eyesight of the railroad depot — made the hotel a mainstay for business travelers and others passing through, but it also was a center of social life for locals, according to Crowder’s research:
“Mrs. Tee Watson, who along with her husband, Elgene, ran the café and tended to the 11 rooms upstairs during World War II, stating that the hotel was more like a boarding house than a hotel,” she said. The café inside the hotel was popular with those staying at the hotel, locals and the business community, as it was open for three meals a day.
Each morning, Watson made biscuits to feed hotel guests and customers of the café. Foster Couvillon, president of the Livingston State Bank, was known to come to the café every morning for his two strips of bacon, two biscuits and a cup of coffee. Some hotel patrons during the period of significance were groups who worked at Sharp Station, a federal deposit area where bauxite and other goods were stored during World War II. Those passing through town and those staying overnight who had come by train were well received, as the Illinois Central Gulf railroad depot was located a half-block from the hotel. Not only was the Brown Hotel a regular hotel for visitors to Denham Springs, but it also served as a “railroad hotel.”
A shipping shed for farm goods was adjacent to the train tracks. As Denham Springs grew, crop farmers brought their merchandise to the town to sell to buyers, both of which often stayed overnight at the hotel, Crowder’s research found.
The hotel featured a wooden framed telephone booth between the two front doors, which, during World War II, was where news came to Denham Springs about local casualties or injuries. Names were listed in a display window at the hotel of those called to duty during the war.
With a partial grant from Louisiana’s historic preservation group, the Crowders worked to restore the storefront’s appearance to resemble how it would have looked in 1927, Crowder said, and in the process, uncovered the original doors, still intact, which had been covered with plywood.