Monday, June 20, 2016

Bayou Lacombe Museum

 The Bayou Lacombe Rural Museum is located at 61115 S. St. Mary St. Lacombe, LA, and offers a variety of exhibits and informative displays in a former two-room classroom school building. Click on the images to see a larger version. 



Previous Exhibits at the Museum 

The Bayou Lacombe Rural Museum was a dream of area resident Gladys Kinler. When she first started the Bayou Lacombe Bicentennial Commission (in 1975) she recruited Tom Aicklen as chairman of the Heritage portion of the Bicentennial with the goal of organizing a rural museum for the community. 

A museum of some type was in the forefront of heritage celebration efforts. "Museums attract more and more tourist dollars into a community on a consistent basis," Aicklen noted, "so the economic impact of a good museum is considerable."

The commission was also tasked with putting together a resource festival to provide a sustaining source of funds to support the Lacombe park and the museum.

The museum's mission was to preserve, protect, promote, and pass along the historic, cultural, and environmental heritage of the Lacombe area.

Years ago, the Bayou Lacombe Rural Museum was one of only twenty applicants to attend a special statewide "Jumpstart" seminar for new museums. 

The five day seminar of museum directors from all over Louisiana was held in Alexandria, LA., hosted by the Louisiana Association of Museums. A very select group of people from new museums, and those who are trying to re-invent themselves, were the very first," according to Pam Meister, Executive Director for the association. Known as "Jumpstart," it was an intensive course of study and training given by professionals in the field of museum management to rural museum directors, curators, and project managers.

According to Meister, "Jumpstart" was the first of its kind anywhere, an exciting concept that promised to become the prototype for others of its kind. "Jumpstart" was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the La. Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

Aicklen explained that the museum organizers were glad to receive the training which equipped them with the knowledge of professionals in the field. The seminar provided instructive help to people who are not museum professionals in order to give them a more professional approach to follow in such things as management, organization, promotion, funding, planning, inter-active participation with the community, sponsorship, tourism, education, and entertainment: all of the "how to's" connected with getting a small, new, or struggling museum up and going.

It also helped that in 1990 Marjorie Moran got the museum building placed upon the National Registry of Historic Places. The museum is located at the corner of St. Mary and 14th Streets and was made part of the National Registry of Historic Places as the "Lacombe School." 

Here is the text from a part of the application to be placed on the National Registry (with some editing):

     The Lacombe School is of local educational significance because it was the only means of receiving an elementary education within the community. The period of significance spans from 1913, when classes began, until 1940. (The school continued in the same role well into the post World War II era; hence the fifty year cutoff is being used for the ending date.)

     The Lacombe School was established through the generosity of John H. Davis, Sr., who is generally regarded as the "father of Lacombe.11 Davis had the small settlement surveyed in 1908 under the name Oaklawn, but in 1910 the postal authorities-denied the use of this name because of its similarity to another post office name. The post office instead was given the name Lacombe, after Bayou Lacombe, where the village is located. The economy of the community was based on lumber, agriculture and brickyards.

     Realizing the need for a school for Lacombe, Davis in July 1912 donated land for said purpose and provided for the construction of a building. During the period of significance, grades 1-6 were taught by either one or two teachers. 

     The school was the only one in the community, and had it not existed, children would have had to go to either Mandeville or Slidell (8 and 10 miles respectively). While such a distance is negligible today, one must remember that rural roads of the period were gravel and automobiles moved slowly. Such an obstacle would have prevented many children from attending school on a regular basis.

     Although there are no attendance records for the Lacombe School, photos of graduating classes and recollections of former students indicate that enrollment was anywhere from a dozen or so in the early years to around forty in the late '30s. One room of the Lacombe School was still being used for educational purposes as late as 1986.
Technical Description

The Lacombe School (1913) is a one story, two room, frame schoolhouse located on the Lacombe Junior High School property in the old residential section of the small community. The modern junior high complex is linked to the old building by means of a covered walkway. The old school itself is very well- preserved, but there has been a noticeable side wing attached at the rear.

     The Lacombe School is a plain building with a hipped tin roof. The principal feature of the facade is a pedimented entrance porch with cloakrooms on either side. The open space between the cloakrooms is highlighted by curving brackets. There are two doors, one leading into each classroom. Windows are grouped in sets of three. Sometime in the 1930s two restrooms and an office were added to the rear. They were serviced by a open hallway running parallel to the main building. In the 1940s a side lunchroom wing was attached at the southeast (rear) corner abutting the restroom/office addition. 

     The other end of the once open hallway between the school and restroom/office addition has since been filled in with a door. The beaded board interior basically retains its historic appearance. The building is .now being used as a museum, and some of the wall surface is obscured by removable exhibit boards. The old school dominates and would immediately be recognizable to its students during the historic period.

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