New Life for A Sad Place

In the not-too-distant past, the first thing you would see after turning onto Cotton Street from Marshall was a sad sack-looking white building that had seen better days.


Probably the most impressive thing about it was the really fabulous stencil work.


I know you’re saying to yourself “That IS impressive work. Why in the world would anyone want to change anything about this building?” Call us crazy, I guess, but even though we could find no old photos, we knew this building once looked waaay better than this and it deserved more.

Working together, the Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation (DSDC) and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) agreed to an ‘adaptive re-use’ project. That’s basically historic preservationist language for ‘give an old building an updated use and for gosh sakes, can you make it look better, too?’ DSDC and DDA were pretty sure they could. They wanted the building to be useful and functional but also attractive and historically appropriate.

It wasn’t going to be a big job in the scheme of the Sears rehab or anything like that, but we still needed professional help. (Not of the mental variety, although with rehab that is always a possibility.) Our 6,000 SF building, in addition to looking bad, had issues. Every single thing needed updating. There was a big hole in the roof that created an indoor water feature when it rained. The original concrete floor had cracks and divots and was level only sporadically. The whole place was really, really, really, really dirty. On the positive side, we had four good walls to work with. In spite of the cracks, the concrete floor was interesting-looking. Once we could see them, we realized the rafters and beams were amazing. We assembled a go-to team of downtown architect Kevin Bryan and Daren Bailey of DBI Construction. You’ve heard horror stories about how construction projects go south and everyone ends up hating everyone else?


Then men in the middle. Kevin is in the slacks, Daren is the cool dude in the green shirt. 

That did NOT happen here. We love those guys. They were good. They were responsive. They were concerned. They made things happen. We gave them, like, four months to draw, demo and finish the project. Seriously. We knew that they couldn’t do it in that amount of time but they gave it the old college try. It ended up taking six.

Along the way, we made some amazing finds. Remember the front of the building? Those sheets of white plywood were actually protecting something fabulous…the original transom windows.


Before, with plywood.


During construction, the transom windows uncovered! Be still, my beating heart.

Amazingly, when the plywood came down only a couple of panes were missing. We kept the original windows and put in storm window coverings for energy efficiency. Meanwhile, demo work was going on inside, which had been- put bluntly- whacked with the ugly stick.


Heinous 1


Heinous 2

The interior was so terrible that my board members questioned 1.) the wisdom of the project, 2.) my sanity, and 3.) their sanity. They voiced their concerns, set a not-to-exceed budget and let it rip. After all, they said, isn’t helping save wonderful buildings a big part of what the DDA and DSDC are all about? Those boards are awesome and I tell them that a lot.


Finished Exterior! What a difference.

They were not disappointed with the outcome. As wonderful as the exterior looked, the interior was even better; fun while functional, historically-respectful with lots of modern mixed in, comfortable and really good-looking. We drew on designer Myron Griffing’s considerable talents to pull the interior look together, hired Justin Ford and Brian Carlisle for a giant reclaimed wood shelving project and some other touches of whimsy and used downtown works of photographer Molly Corbett to bring the story of our city center to life.  State historic tax credits helped us bring the project in under budget as well as return a wonderful old building to life.


Steve Culp covers an ugly conference room table with a vinyl 1936 downtown map. We love our table now. 

There’s a lot to see in our building like the cool conference tables covered in old maps, a giant finger (just you wait), a downtown version of the Arc de Triomphe  and loads of art of all types from local artists. You’re invited to see it all up close and personal at our open house Monday from 4:30-7:00 pm. Greg Solomon’s re-imagined space right around the corner will be open, too. Value added!



All street parking is free after 5 pm, Monday-Friday. The lots on the northeast and northwest corners of Marshall and Cotton are also open and free. (Don’t park in any lot marked SYSTEM PARKING unless you pay. They are pay 24/7.)

It’s going to be a fun evening, rain or shine. We hope to see you and stoke YOUR interest in downtown’s wonderful historic spaces!



The Calanthean Temple in Shreveport Common.

The Music Never Dies: the Calanthean Temple’s Rich, Melodic History

The tall, striking building in Shreveport Common looks like a typical vacant structure, but look more closely and you will see life returning.

The Calanthean Temple was at its peak in the early 1900s, a home to African American professional offices; dentists, doctors, attorneys. The 8 to 5 gave way to a robust nighttime musical venue on the vaunted rooftop which hosted all the famous African American musicians of the day- Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie, Jelly Roll Morton…the list goes on and on. 

Though the jazz melodies and progressive energy momentarily ceased with the Calanthean Temple’s closing, music is once again being heard there.


The First of Its Kind

The Court of Calanthe, an African-American women’s organization, built the Calanthean Temple in 1923. It stood as the largest building in the United States brought into existence by African-American creativity and savvy.  

In addition to the storied musicians, dancers and Mardi Gras ball attendees also flocked to the Calanthean Temple’s rooftop for celebrations. The landmark remains in one of Shreveport’s designated historic areas. Mike Rosebery photographed the Calanthean Temple after years of decay. A relatively-new owner is working to  rehab the building and make it both useful and beautiful once again. Tons of trash has been removed from the interior of the building, broken windows were removed, new windows will soon be installed, the amazing rooftop deck has been re-roofed, making the building leak-free again for the first time in dozens of years. 

Calanthean Temple rooftop garden dance advertisement

The Calanthean Temple featured musicians and dances on its rooftop garden. (Credit: Chris Brown)

Inspiring a Musical Comeback

New Orleans Airlift, an organization in New Orleans that promotes collaboration between communities and artists, created a musical village in an adjacent lot operating in the shadow of the Calanthean Temple. Artists came together to construct interactive musical architecture whose elements of wood, metal and other material allow artists to play tunes. The site was dubbed the Calanthean Canyon in honor of its historical neighbor.

Community artists perform at the Calanthean Canyon in events held as part of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s UNSCENE! initiative. The initiative has sparked multiple artistic endeavors that attract diverse audiences in the region to experience the culture of the area.

Learn More of Shreveport’s Rich Heritage at History on Tap

Want to learn how Shreveport’s historic buildings are reviving downtown’s unique culture? Check out History on Tap on Thursday, March 24, at 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. in downtown Shreveport.

Shreveport Feibleman’s Sears building at downtown.

Sears Building Texas Street Shreveport Becomes Lofts @ 624

Shreveport Feibleman’s Sears building at downtown.

From Shopping Spree to Downtown Renewal

When the Feibleman’s store opened on Texas Street in 1925, the streets of downtown Shreveport stood as the center of life, the go-to place, the future. Or so it seemed.

The streets were bustling, people were walking. Yet the jewel on the corner that offered jobs, and was once called a ‘Temple of Commerce’ became vacant and unloved.

Designed by one of Shreveport’s most famous architects, the building that housed Feibleman’s, which would later become Sears, graced the area among its similarly grand counterparts, as it still does today.

And though its department store heyday has come and gone, what’s known as the old Sears building will soon show what passion and preservation can do for a modern monument and adaptive reuse—turning something old into some new and useful again.


Another Masterpiece

When Feibleman’s opened, it was the first store in Shreveport to offer its own credit card. The building’s towering presence and ornate design was conceived by Samuel G. Wiener, a Shreveport architect known worldwide for his International-styled works.

Wiener and his brother, William B. Wiener, were known locally for designing many public and private buildings around Shreveport and Bossier City, including the Samuel Wiener House, the Wile House and the Flesh House.

Feibleman’s later became Sears and later still, became vacant. However, years later, a team of innovators saw the beauty and potential in the building’s original features and carefully crafted details.        

Shreveport Sears employees making drapes in 1958.

Shreveport Sears employees sewing drapes in 1958.

A Return of Vibrance

Today, the 600 block of Texas Street signals progress as the Sears building transforms into the Lofts @ 624, a mixed-use development of three buildings that will comprise 52 apartments, 22,000 square feet of office or ‘other’ space and 17,000 square feet of retail space when it’s finished.

The Downtown Development Authority projects the rehabilitation to boost downtown revitalization, creating jobs, additional tax revenue and more opportunities.

The old Feibelman’s/Sears building marked more than a new beginning on its opening day in 1925. Perhaps more importantly, the edifice has become a reminder that instead of looking outward for a new beginning, renewal can come from where it all started originally.


Discover Your City at History on Tap

There’s quite a bit of magic in Shreveport. You just have to look for it. Enjoy a plethora of brews and some historic & local tales at History on Tap on Thursday, March 24 in downtown Shreveport.

black and white photo of Elvis Presley performing on the Louisiana Hayride stage

The Most Jive Place In All of Shreveport

black and white photo of Elvis Presley performing on the Louisiana Hayride stage

One of Shreveport’s most treasured buildings, the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, has been home to a number of famous performances over the years. But none as notable as the “Louisiana Hayride.” It’s been nearly 70 years since the “Hayride” made its debut, bringing to life the sounds of the South on the radio and, years later, television.


The Cradle of the Stars

The 1940s/50s was a golden era for country and blues music in the South, and the “Hayride” was a major influence for many budding musicians. Every Saturday night, the  public crammed the aisles of the Municipal Auditorium for a night of music, hilarity and prizes.

In its 12-year run, the show saw its fair share of gifted performers rise to fame, positioning Shreveport as a leading destination for fresh talent and cutting-edge entertainment. Stars like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton built their reputations on the “Hayride” stage. The show also featured dozens of prominent singers and musicians, including Kitty Wells and Bob Wills.

old flyer for the Louisiana Hayride sponsored by a radio station depicting a country singer and a microphone

The “Louisiana Hayride” was a great platform for new and developing artists.

Elvis Has Entered the Building

In October 1954, a fresh-eyed teenager from Mississippi named Elvis Presley took the stage for the first time to play his newly released single, “That’s All Right Mama.” The response was lukewarm initially. Even so, “Hayride” signed him on to play every Saturday night for $18 a performance. Here, Presley honed his skill and developed techniques that would lead to him to be signed by a major music producer.

It wasn’t long before rock and roll fever swept the nation. The demand for Presley’s style of music eventually lead the to a sharp decline in interest for the program’s traditionally country lineup. The “Louisiana Hayride” gave its final performance in 1960. Since then, reunion tours and anniversary performances have kept the spirit of the show alive.

See What’s Shakin’ with History on Tap

Learn more about Elvis Presley’s old stomping grounds Thursday, March 24 at History on Tap. We’ve paired historic monuments with special brews. Rain or shine, we’ll be there, giving you food for thought and beer for your gut. What more could you want?

black and white photograph depicting and old skyscraper and several downtown buildings

The Ardis Johnson Building


black and white photograph depicting and old skyscraper and several downtown buildings

In the early 1900s, commerce in Shreveport was focused around downtown. The city center developed rapidly and the buildings that sprang up housed any number of important (and maybe not so) businesses.

The Ardis Building—then Ardis-Johnson Building, and today the Johnson Building—was Shreveport’s third major office building and one of the largest skyscrapers dotting the city skyline. Throughout its lifetime it was home to many different businesses including attorney, dentists, and real estate brokers. A beauty salon and cafe were long-term residents of the ground floor until 1998, when Kelly’s Po Boy became the sole tenant of the building.

The building, like most downtown, has a long and storied history. When the building was purchased by W. Harry Johnson in the late 1930s, it became the first office structure in Shreveport to be air conditioned. Johnson was an astute businessman, owner of the nation’s largest motor transport line. He also dabbled in real estate, raised cattle, manufactured brick and dehydrated potatoes for distribution.

black and white photograph depicting old downtown skyscraper with a prominent cafe

The popular restaurant downstairs would eventually make way for Kelly’s Po Boy.

The Future

In 1996, the Downtown Development Authority surveyed the Ardis Johnson building, deeming it a good candidate for redevelopment. In the style of Lee Hardware and the United Jewelers apartments, the DDA believed the building would make an attractive residential building for downtown dwellers at an affordable cost. Proposed floor plans suggested it could house 49 apartments in various sizes.

Join Us On March 24 for History on Tap

We’ve teamed up with a cool group of folks to pair historical landmarks with special brews. Come tour downtown through our beer/historic building boards and learn a little about the city you live in. History and beer. What more could you want? Did we mention it’s free?

an old postcard featuring a theater building called the Majestic in Shreveport

The Drugstore That Launched The Entertainment Industry

an old postcard featuring a theater building called the Majestic in Shreveport

At the corner of Milam and Louisiana streets sits a gem of a building whose roots once ran deep throughout the city. To see it today, you’d never believe that Saenger Drug was a hugely successful and influential pharmacy—as well as home to a popular soda fountain. But did you know the fate of the Strand Theatre and maybe the entirety of the entertainment industry in northern Louisiana is also tied to this humble little drugstore?Shreveport may have never ended up quite the same without the help of two Virginia natives.

What the Public Wants

The Saenger brothers can only be described as true entrepreneurial masterminds. They first apprenticed under one of Shreveport’s pioneer druggists to learn the in’s and out’s of the commercial pharmacy trade. Within five years, Saenger Drug Company opened for business, and, with it, a new era of retail was born.

Much of the shop’s success is attributed to the brothers’ keen business savvy and strong customer relations. The pair was the first to recognize a substantial need for all-hours availability to medicines and basic necessities. In response, Saenger Drug provided 24-hour service to customers.

But the Saengers had higher aspirations than just a small-town retail store. They wanted amusement, culture and the arts. And so Saenger Amusement Company was born.

old postcard depicting a vibrant downtown scene and featuring the Majestic Theatre

An old postcard depicts the Majestic Theatre in its heyday.

Paramount Pictures Comes Calling

Starting with vaudeville shows, the Saengers flooded the city with as much entertainment as it could handle. Once it became clear that motion pictures were poised to take over the industry, the company dropped vaudeville altogether, choosing instead to focus on building a chain of theaters that would eventually extend through the southern states and into Cuba.

After extensive contact with the Ehrlich brothers, the owners of the Majestic Theatre on Milam Street, the group formed a partnership under Saenger-Ehrlich Enterprises. They set out on a joint venture to open the Saenger Theatre, which would later be known as the Capri.

In October 1923, groundbreaking began on the Strand Theatre, the flagship of what was to become a chain of 320 theaters. It was fully air conditioned and staffed with a full-time orchestra. After 19 months of construction, the Strand’s curtains rose for the first time to a production of The Chocolate Soldier. Shortly after, the group moved its headquarters to New Orleans and were approached by Paramount. The Saenger Brothers sold their vast holdings for roughly $10 million, about $129m in today’s dollars.

The transaction didn’t mark the end of the movie business for the Saengers. Until his death in 1932, Julian Saenger remained a prominent figure in the entertainment industry, advising on councils and socializing with producers in Hollywood and New York.
Saenger Drug shuttered its doors in the early 1990s but its legacy lives on. This once vibrant and bustling drugstore lies in wait for its next exciting adventure. And who knows? Maybe the next owners will kick off a new era of culture for the city.

Learn more about the Saengers and the drugstore that started it at History on Tap, March 24.

black and white photo of old brick building of Morris & Dickson drug store in Shreveport, Louisiana

Morris Dickson: The Little Apothecary That Could

black and white photo of old brick building of Morris & Dickson drug store in Shreveport, Louisiana

From a small town apothecary to one of the most successful drug wholesalers, the Morris Dickson pharmaceutical building on Travis St. is one of the most iconic to grace the downtown cityscape. Founded in 1841, this historic building practically grew up with Shreveport and is one of the city’s first established businesses that is still operating today.

These days, Morris Dickson is the oldest family-owned pharmaceutical distributor in the country. It all started out with humble beginnings and a dream, but with a little ingenuity and perseverance, the company turned its meager prospects into a lifetime legacy.

A Fortuitous Meeting

In 1838, John W. Morris and Thomas Henry Morris, two brothers from Wales, received degrees in pharmacy and chemistry. Later that year, the duo made the trip from England to the United States to meet with Bishop Leonidas Polk on the recommendation of the Church of England. Polk told them Shreveport—then known as Shreve Town—was destined to be one of the most prosperous towns on the upper banks of the Red River.

The brothers took his advice, and a few years later, Morris & Co. opened shop.

Trying Times

The late 1800s brought about hardship for folks in the South thanks to a series of catastrophic events that threatened the economy. The effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction in particular were felt all across the South, but even more so in thriving port cities. During the war, Shreveport served as Confederate headquarters—and, for a brief time, the Confederate capital—and at one point was the target for a large-scale attack that went awry. The Red River, north Louisiana’s most attractive feature, quickly turned into a focal point of attack for Union leaders.

The trials did not stop with the war, however. In 1873, a yellow fever epidemic swept over the region, threatening to wipe Shreveport off the map. “Graves were filled as fast as they could be dug,” one survivor remarked. By the end of the summer, a quarter of the residents had died.

old photo of TH Morris drug store in Shreveport, Louisiana

TH Morris was a popular shop before its expansion to become Morris & Dickson.

From Small-Town Apothecary to Worldwide Distributor

Shreveport prevailed, growing its financial base in the process. Timber, cotton and commerce industries flourished, and Morris & Co. grew along with it.

Decades after opening its doors, Morris & Co. attracted the attention of Dr. Samuel Dickson and his brother, who bought interest in the company. A few decades and a handful of name changes later, the company eventually came to be known as Morris & Dickson Co., LTD. To this day, the Dickson family still owns and oversees operations.

The Dickson brothers brought with them modern innovation to enhance operations. By the early 1900s, the company leveraged automation techniques that allowed them to maintain a competitive edge in the industry. In 1985, Morris & Dickson moved from its downtown warehouse to a spacious location on the outskirts of Shreveport.


Learning and Have A Drink or Two with History on Tap
On March 10, tour downtown Shreveport’s beautiful historic buildings and learn all about the city’s colorful past—all with a cold beer in hand. History on Tap pairs old buildings with unique brews and might even teach you a thing or two.