Friday, March 31, 2017

100 Years Ago This Week

What was going on 100 years ago this week? The following link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service. CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer edition of March 31, 1917. 




The Madisonville Bank Statement from March, 1917

Dedication of New Covington City Hall - 1959

This picture shows the dedication of the newly-built Covington City Hall on Columbia Street in 1959. Click on the image for a larger version. 


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Covington Fire Department in 1966

This group photograph shows the men of the Covington Fire Department as they were in the year 1966, some 51 years ago. Click on the image for a larger version. 



John Akers - The Wildlife Environment Artist

In this installment of my weekly "Talent Bank" column from 1985, I spoke with artist John Akers of Abita Springs about his great diversity of art portraying St. Tammany Parish wildlife and outdoor environments. Here is the text from that article:

The Talent Bank: Artist John Akers, June 6, 1985

Artist Jack Akers of Covington has a habit of combing the woods and swamplands of the South, taking pic­tures and then transforming those pictures into portraits of landscapes, mystic scenes that have earned him a considerable reputation.


Akers has been painting now for 20 years, 14 of those as a full time pro­fessional, and his current efforts are aimed at picturing ducks and other wildlife in native habitats for various duck stamp competitions around the nation. He recently plac­ed third in the Indiana Duck Stamp competition, where there were over 400 contenders submitting artwork.


His early work concentrated on bayous and landscapes, something that is still close to his heart. He en­joys canoeing through the isolated areas, making sketches and taking pictures for frames of reference for future works of art. His wanderings take him from the Bogue Chitto River to the marshes of Lake Pontchartrain to the Stock Island refuge near Talisheek and even as far as Texas.



Jack Akers drawing in Belize


"Some of the photographs are good enough where they would make a nice painting with just a few changes," he said, "but generally I put a combination of photographs together with the wildlife." He also goes out and photographs his own egrets and raccoons and herrons. "I do a lot of raccoon paintings," he commented, saying that the public really likes raccoon pictures. He is planning a series of prints featuring them and other wildlife subjects.

This and several other projects will keep Akers busy all summer as he hopes to have them ready by the fall. Anyone who thinks that free lance artists just sit around all day waiting to be inspired hasn't check­ed into Akers' schedule. He and other notable artists in St. Tam­many Parish keep their noses to the grindstone, putting out a lot of work. It helps the general public remember who they are and what they can do and keeps up demand for their work.


Akers said that his late night pain­ting sessions are frequent now that he has challenged himself into deadlines.


Time Crunch

He likes to finish his works in pro­gress and get started on something else as soon as possible. While he uses acrylics to a great extent, he started out in traditional watercolors. "I'd like to experiment with different media," he said, "but I don't have time. There are several techniques and papers I'd like to get into, but I just don't have the time."


He added that he will reach the point eventually where he will have the time to get into the media and techniques that he's been wanting to try.
In the future, he'll be entering other duck stamp contests, including the national Ducks Unlimited title this fall and the federal duck stamp competition. He also does cop­perplate etchings every other month, and between putting out the etchings and the prints and the duck stamps and the landscapes, he's pretty busy.


Akers is well known in Covington circles for his work, his classes and his art supply store of several years ago. His is a name that brings to mind picture-perfect paintings, a style that has stirred comment among local art observers for years but has paid off for Akers, whose work is now featured by one of Cov­ington's newest art galleries and frame shops.


St. Tammany Parish has a lot to offer in scenic swamp tableaus and backwoods wildlife environments, and Akers is just one of dozens of artists and photographers who have sought to capture its beauty on film and on canvas for the rest of the world to enjoy.




Akers found what his talents were and the best way to utilize them. After that came the production of scores of paintings and prints which were very well-received by the art-buying public. When he says he didn't have time to explore any other papers or techniques, it was because his work was very much in demand, a situation any artist can appreciate. 


Akers painted the cover image for the 1981 Chamber Magazine


He was especially successful in winning competitions for the artwork used on duck stamps and wildlife preservation posters. His 1990 print for the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans was very popular. He signed and numbered 5000 of them, and the art was also used on a stamp. 



To view additional artwork by John Akers,  CLICK HERE.


 Swallow-tailed kite, lithograph by John Akers

Prints of the painting above are being sold to help raise funds for the Northlake Nature Center. CLICK HERE for more information.


A signed and numbered John Akers print for the Louisiana Sportsmen's Show in 1985

A description of the artist and his art reprinted from Worthpoint.com:

     "The Art Of John Akers -  John Akers, the renowned Abita Springs artist, is known for his unique style and palette. His prints and paintings are instantly recognizable regardless of where they are displayed. He once said that he got a great deal of satisfaction knowing that his style was so distinctive, achieved through many years of hard work and not influenced by any institution or individual, past or present. 
 
      For many years he concentrated on the study and painting of wildlife, waterfowl, fish, coral reefs and florals. He performed the tremendous research and also developed the skill and patience required to paint these subjects accurately and realistically. His duck paintings are among the very best, as evidenced by his being named Artist of the Year in 1985 and 1989 by Ducks Unlimited. He was selected, for several years, to design and paint the official annual Louisiana Sportsmens Show poster. 

      In addition to wildlife scenes, John produced his bayou country works. His very intricate paintings of oyster boats, shrimp trawlers, and peaceful bayous and water ways are in ever-increasing demand. Says John: 'I felt the need to record these scenes through my paintings before their innocent beauty is lost to encroaching civilization. Because
of my feelings for these subjects, I am able to paint with both emotion and realism.'
     Akers' works are on display in many fine galleries in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. His works also hang in thousands of homes and offices throughout the Unites States. Johns paintings are in collections in England, Australia, South America, Mexico, Africa, Europe, Russia, Japan and in many other countries. He is listed in American Artists of Renown, the book of who's who in American art.



According to Artworks of Louisiana website, he died in 2006. Their comments follow: 

John Akers (1944-2006)

The Abita Springs artist John Akers was known for his unique style and palette. His prints and paintings are instantly recognizable regardless of where they are displayed. Jack, as he was known by his friends, produced wildlife scenes, bayou country works, oyster boats, shrimp trawlers, and peaceful waterways in ever increasing demand. He was also one of the few artists that still created copper plate etchings. Jack always stated that "Because  of my feelings for these subjects I am able to paint with emotion and realism."

Stamps and Prints

His painting of a jaguar at a Mayan temple in Belize was selected for one of the country's conservation stamps. It was entitled "Spirit Guardian."


The print was issued in 1991. Fifteen hundreds prints were available in the signed and numbered edition, with 150 Artist Proofs. The original painting was 13 inches by 18 inches and prints were made by Harvey Press in New Orleans.


In their promotion of the print and stamp, the National Museum of Belize wrote that Akers had been a professional artist for 29 years (starting in 1963), that he was self-taught, and that he did a tremendous amount of research for each painting to make it realistic and unique. 

His list of honors included being selected by the National Wildlife Show in Kansas City, MO, to display and market his work. Additionally, he was invited to show and sell his work at the Wild Wings, Wildlife in Miniature Show in Lake City, MN.

Akers was the Louisiana Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year in 1985 and 1989, was tapped for the Louisiana Wild Turkey Federation Stamp and Print in 1986, and in 1990 was chosen to produce the first ever Reef Conservation Stamp and Print for the Reef Keepers of America, in addition to his Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans, LA) first official stamp and print.


For a Google search of the paintings of "John Akers - artist" CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Oak Tree Service Station

Many years ago, there was the Oak Tree Service Station on the southeast corner of the Boston St./Florida Street intersection in Covington. In later years it was renovated and became home to the Greyhound Bus Station, the Western Union Office, and now the Superior Tire Co. across from Subway sandwiches. 

Click on the image below to make it larger. 


Many Covington residents remember getting on the bus to go down to Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, riding it home on the weekends after being in school all week, and taking off on the bus to visit relatives in far-away places during the summer. 


The Greater Covington Chamber of Commerce

Before the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, there was the Greater Covington Chamber of Commerce, with an office in the Kentzel Printing building on N. New Hampshire. In 1972 an article about the chamber, its civic leaders and community involvements was printed in Pathways magazine.

Click on the image below to enlarge the text for reading. 


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mrs. Miriam Barranger, Artist

The first president of the St. Tammany Art Association was Mrs. Miriam Barranger. It was an appropriate choice because of her drive, her community involvements, and, not the least of all, her reputation as an outstanding artist. 



Here is a detailed article written about her in a 1972 issue of Pathways Magazine. Click on the images below for a larger version. 




Monday, March 27, 2017

The History of St. Tammany Parish Hospital

The history of St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington is available by CLICKING ON THIS LINK.



The Women's Progressive Union of Covington began talking about the need for a hospital in 1946, and after eight years of members promoting the idea by speaking to churches, missionary groups, farmers and sewing circles, plans were made to go ahead with the project. 

The police jury called for a bond issue vote, and together with federal funding, a ground breaking ceremony was held on May 4, 1953. The hospital opened its doors to patients 18 months later in December of 1954. It cost $365,000 to build, with an initial inventory of 15 beds. Almost immediately expansion projects were started, with another 15 beds added in 1958.

Expansions continued throughout the 1960's and 70's. Many of the additions were funded in part by donations and contributions by individuals and community organizations. Soon there were private rooms, the nursery, pediatrics, operating rooms and more parking lots. 

The hospital now has 232 beds following the completion of a major renovation and expansion project three years ago. 

CLICK HERE to see an aerial photograph of the hospital in 1975.




Rosemerry Hanian On The Development of Talent

In this 1985 installment of the "Talent Bank" column, I spoke with well-known area dance instructor Rosemerry Fuhrmann Hanian of Covington. According to her research and experience, learning how to dance opens up new areas of creativity, as well as improving reading ability. 

Click on the image below to enlarge the text for easier reading. 



For more information on Rosemerry Hanian, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.



Some of her students




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Historical Society Told About Community Theater

In 1997 Warren Salles, owner of the Star Theater in downtown Covington, spoke to the St. Tammany Historical Society about the history of that theater, others in the area, and his family's association with theaters in New Orleans for the past several decades. 

His presentation touched upon the many memories of people in the area who grew up going to movies at the Star Theater as well as the many live stage shows offered. 




CLICK ON THIS LINK to hear an MP3 audio recording of that historical society presentation.




See also:


 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bogue Falaya Park

Bogue Falaya Park in Covington was a happening place in the beginning of the 20th Century. There were all kinds of dances, plays and general get-togethers in the park. Hundreds of people passed through the entrance gates of the community park on summer weekends to sit by the river, enjoy the shade of the large pavilion and listen to music or see a show of some sort. Click on the images to see a larger version.



It was first opened in July, 1909, as indicated by the following newspaper article from the St. Tammany Farmer. Click on the image to enlarge the type. 



Here are some pictures of the entrance to Bogue Falaya Park. The first one is in the 1910's. 




A previous entrance to Bogue Falaya Park, according to the postcard caption. 




Heading for the Park Pavilion


The large park pavilion that was repeatedly damaged by floods


A July 4, 1939, gathering at the park



The park pavilion in 2016

According to Pat Clanton, the original large pavilion in the park was destroyed around 1915 and replaced with the current day pavilion, which is much smaller.

The large brick entrance posts are also interesting. 


The entrance gate built in 1920 served pedestrians, but was modified a few years later to accommodate cars. The two pillars on either side of that gate were retained. They were restored in 2007 along with the historical marker that was placed on them originally.


The sign above is a replica of an earlier sign that adorned the entrance to the park. The new sign was built in 1993 using funds generated by the sale of a song-filled cassette about St. Tammany Rivers. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Documentation for Placement on the 
National Registry of Historic Places 

    On  August 17, 2017,  Bogue Falaya Park was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The narrative description of the park listed on the NRHP application went as follows (with some editing):

    The Bogue Falaya River was pivotal in the development of Covington. Covington was at one point one of the major ports for cotton coming from Mississippi and Florida. In addition to cotton shipments were brick, lumber, beef, and poultry. In the early and mid-19th century, Covington was a central axis for trading and the Bogue Falaya served to link the town with Lake Pontchartrain and finally New Orleans. 

    Not only were goods and people moving from Covington to New Orleans, the residents of New Orleans were flocking to the Bogue Falaya riverbanks. Covington and the other towns were designated to be the 2nd healthiest place in the United States after the Civil War due to the significantly lower levels of disease related deaths. People would come to the Bogue Falaya to swim and to enjoy the clean air. Covington and the Bogue Falaya became such a prominent tourist attraction that early versions of bed and breakfasts were developed along the river and in the town to accommodate for these visitors. 




    Bogue Falaya Park is located on the eastern side of the city of Covington, Louisiana on the banks of the Falaya River. A thirteen-acre park located at the end of N. New Hampshire Street with a natural boundary of the river to the east and the suburban neighborhood to the west. 


    Within the park are two significant structures, the main being the pavilion situated at the end of the turning circle/ parking lot area within the park. The dominant feature of the park, the current pavilion was constructed in 1915 and has acted continuously as an important community gathering center for the city of Covington. 

    The second are the gates to the park, donated in 1920 by a Dr. Lawrence Stevenson. The remaining features of the gate include brick and mortar posts with marble plaques and three cast iron cannon balls a top each post. Originally larger, they have been receded to allow for vehicle access to the park. 

    In addition to these primary features, there is also an original lifeguard chair dating to approximately the 1950s. A dilapidated concession stand and newer construction wooden playground are also on the site and are non-contributing elements to the park. 

    The park offers a variety of vegetation featuring several live oak and long leaf yellow pine trees throughout. 

    Bogue Falaya Park, located within the city limits of Covington, Louisiana, was opened on July 1, 1909, along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River. Already a popular recreation site because of the river, the park developed into a central gathering space for community members of Covington. 

   The area is mostly sand with the only paved areas being the driveway into the park and turnaround area directly in front of the pavilion. The turnaround area features a small sculpture, stone benches, and is the most manicured/planned area in terms of vegetation.     
    The park has many trees most of which are cypress, oak, or long leaf yellow pine, which are common to the area. The ground is primarily sand, with some small growth of grasses. As it was always meant to be a recreational space and not a designed landscape, the park still retains its integrity as a contributing site and is the only resource of the park itself that dates to the original opening in 1909.



    The lifeguard chair is a contributing object. The wooden portions of the chair (seat and back) have rotted away, but one can still easily tell that this was a lifeguard chair. It stands on the banks of the Bogue Falaya River and helps to illustrate the recreational aspect that the park and river played. It is constructed of pipe metal and fits the typical design of a lifeguard chair, being taller so that that lifeguard could see over crowds and well into the water. It dates to the 1950s and is thus, within the period of significance for the park.  

    The Bogue Falaya Park is significant for recreation and entertainment as the park has provided a recreational space that was not only used by locals, but residents of New Orleans as well, for over 100 years. The historic resources within the park have been continually used by residents and visitors and retain a high degree of integrity. 

    The park itself provides a rural oasis within the city of Covington away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. The park continues to this day to be a significant recreational resource for the community

    Due to the relative health of the city of Covington and the access to the river, recreation became a large part of the Bogue Falaya and its banks. The land for the park was bought from G.R Tolson in 1908 by the City of Covington to establish a 13-acre park. The park was officially opened on July 1st, 1909. The city maintained the park from that time until 1938 when it was gifted to the State of Louisiana who managed it until 1978 when it was given back to Covington. 

 The original pavilion was constructed in 1907 and was destroyed in a storm in 1915, which necessitated the building of the existing structure. Even prior to the formal designation of the park, this original pavilion and riverbank area was a popular destination and a source of pride for residents and a featured tourism spot. 

    Multiple post cards were developed in this time with renderings and photographs of the pavilion. One shows visitors walking to the pavilion with their buggies parked in the grass.

   Up until the 1960s, the park was a popular swimming spot for the residents of Covington, and on the weekends, residents of New Orleans. The pavilion was used as a gathering space for visitors to the park. The pavilion offers an open space for people to gather under and, when the park was still open for swimming, it offered a counter where you could purchase a basket of swimming essentials. 




Behind the counter were showers and changing areas for swimmers. In the front, to the left-hand side was a concession stand where visitors could buy an assortment of refreshments. A jukebox was also in the pavilion. During the period of significance, the pavilion and park were open all night and became a place for teenagers to dance. 



    Current residents of the town of Covington recall that on the weekends there was barely a section of beach left to lay your blanket and fondly spoke of their youth - swimming during the day and dancing with friends into the evening. 

    The river, as told above, was the heart and soul of both commerce and leisure in Covington for a significant amount of time and a main reason Covington became a destination spot. The river was the center of life in Covington – where people would relax, wash their clothes, and even baptize their young. This continued up to and past the development of Bogue Falaya Park.

   The park was built to accommodate the recreation of the river. The evolution of this area into a park is a natural progression of the use of the space, as represented by the fact that the original pavilion predates the land being bought for the park by one year. 

    Clearly, the need was there for a structure to provide shade, the needed facilities for such a popular swimming spot, and a place to gather as a community. The vitality and popularity of the park and pavilion continued up until the late 1960s when the river became polluted and the park went into a state of disrepair. In the early 1980s, the park was reopened and in 1984, it underwent a renovation. New sand was brought in, debris was cleared away, and the pavilion was cleaned and repainted. 

    The Bogue Falaya Park is significant because of the popularity of the park among residents of Covington and the pivotal role the pavilion played in providing services, entertainment, and a break from the heat during a time when tourism and recreation on the Northshore was at an unsurpassed rate. This park provided the main recreational access to the river and was a true center of the community during the hot months. The park and pavilion were also used for private family parties and gatherings as well as public town events throughout the year.  

The Pavilion

    The original pavilion was built in 1907 and was destroyed in a storm in 1915. The existing pavilion was constructed that same year to replace the damaged original. The pavilion is a free-standing wood construction building located at the end of the parking lot turning circle and serves as the focal point in the park.

    The pavilion is a one-story structure and is dominated by a large open air room.  A set of five wooden stairs with a railing on both sides brings visitors up to a small inset doorway with wood trim painted the color tan. The interior space from the front entrance opens into a large square area with low wooden benches along the perimeter.

   The back wall contains two sets of double doors, behind which is now storage/prepping area. This space was originally where visitors would rent swimming equipment and housed the changing areas for each sex. To the right and left of these doors are the current restrooms. A later addition, on the back-left section of the pavilion facing the back wall is a handicapped accessible restroom. To the left of the main structure is a low side addition, which used to serve as the concession area. The building retains a high degree of historic integrity for location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feel and association. It has been continually used by the community for over 100 years and its historic features have been retained while also updating certain aspects of the building for modern uses. The pavilion is over 50 years old and retains much of its integrity from its construction in 1915, with some modifications and upgrades as stated above. 



     The gates are the next significant structure in the park and lie at the only vehicle access entrance to the park at the end of N. New Hampshire Street. Constructed in 1920 the gates were a gift to the park by Dr. Stevenson and were dedicated to his parents and the Rebel Ram Manassas, which was a submarine that served in the civil war to defend Louisiana. 

    Each of the two sides of the gate sit on a concrete footer. The focal points of the gate are two redbrick and mortar structures with a square concrete footer and a marble base. On the capstone are three cast iron cannon balls. 

    On the southern elevation of the eastern gate the plaque reads “Original Park Gates erected 1920, Restored 2007” and features a carving of the gates on the top of the plaque. The east and west elevations include a cement placeholder for the plaque. 

    The north elevation has a marble plaque with a carving of the Rebel Ram Manassas and reads “My Parents, Projectors of the Rebel Ram Manassas, Defender of Louisiana in The Civil War, Dr. Stevenson, 1920”. Dr. Stevenson donated the gates in 1920 in honor of his parents and the CSS Ram Manassas. 


    The CSS Ram Manassas was active during the Civil War as a part of the Confederate fleet. The Manassas has a unique history and was originally designed in Massachusetts as a towboat and used as a steam icebreaker. The ship was captured and purchased by Captain John Stevenson, who was the father of Dr. Stevenson. Captain Stevenson turned the icebreaker he had purchased into a ram – which is an entirely ironclad ship run by steam meant to (literally) ram other ships and to be impermeable to cannonballs. 

    The Ram Manassas was one of the first ironclad ships built for the Confederacy. Eventually, the ship was defeated, but its story offers a unique perspective into naval warfare during the Civil War. This history is especially relevant to the significance of this property due to its connection to the rivers.

   Originally the gates had iron gates to enclose the park. These were removed with the increase in vehicle traffic to the park. Over the years, the gates were vandalized and fell into disrepair. The cannonballs were stolen and the plaques damaged. In 2007, the gates and plaques underwent restoration. The cannonballs were replaced with ones to match. The gates are contributing objects as, although they have been restored with the cannonballs replaced, they are over 50 years old and retain their historic integrity. The town appreciates and is aware of this history as was shown by the hard work that was put in to carefully restoring the gates in 2007.

    Today, the park is used daily by locals and visitors alike. The pavilion is still available for private rental for celebrations and gatherings and is often booked. Town-organized events are also held in the structure, such as the philharmonic music event series and the Halloween Monster Mash. 

    The park is a source of joy and pride for all the residents of Covington and remains an important asset to the community. The gates to the park are also significant in and of themselves and offer a piece of history about some of the residents of the town. 

The Bogue Falaya Park has served as a key recreational facility in Covington since it was first created in 1907-08. 

See also: 



Bogue Falaya Park Pavilion