Friday, June 29, 2018

50th Wedding Anniversary

On September 10, 1972, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Heltemes of Lacombe celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Here is the newspaper article telling about the party that was held to commemorate the occasion. Click on the image to make it larger. 

100 years ago this week

What was going on 100 years ago this week?

CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer edition of June 29, 1918. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Old Post Office Becomes Garden Hotel Suites

The old post office building at the corner of Boston and Vermont Streets in downtown Covington became a part of the Southern Hotel complex Thursday morning, with a gala ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by dozens of dignitaries, public officials, and community supporters. 

The 1937 post office building had been occupied by the St. Tammany Parish School Board for the past 50 years, but it was sold to the Southern Hotel owners last year, and extensive renovations were completed to convert the open space mail-sorting rooms to several hotel suites, as well as a small conference room.  The project was named "Garden House" because the building is located on the plot of land that at one time was the rose garden of the original Southern Hotel. 

The entrance gate leading to the Southern Hotel

Lisa Condrey-Ward, one of the owners of the Southern Hotel, welcomed all those present and gave the audience for the ribbon-cutting ceremony a brief background on the building and especially its 1939 WPA mural by artist Xavier Gonzales that had been carefully preserved and restored. 

To hear an audio recording of Ms. Condrey-Ward's comments, CLICK HERE.

An artfully-crafted garland stood in for a ribbon and was cut by Ms. Condrey-Ward and her mother with several key figures also taking part.  

Among the speakers were Lacey Toledano, president and CEO of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, and Parish President Pat Brister. 

To listen to Ms. Toledano's remarks, CLICK HERE.  

Ms. Toledano thanked all those who came out for the special event. "It's another great day for our parish, we are proud of this preservation project and the Southern Hotel next door. We have a greater and more vibrant downtown Covington, and it has really put us in the spotlight in a great way."

To listen to Ms. Brister's comments about the importance of preserving and caring for old landmark buildings, CLICK HERE.

Ms. Brister said, "It is always wonderful to see new life breathed into a historic building especially one which has been such an integral part of the lives of so many of us in this parish for so many years. Countless of our neighbors and friends have come here to take care of business for their families and loved ones over the years. Now it takes on a new identify, but retains the same history. This companion facility to the absolutely wonderful Southern Hotel will certainly complement its big sister beautifully."

Brister went on to say that as the community moves forward, "we have the innate ability and obligation to retain the defining things of our past. This is what makes our way of life so distinct and why we love where we live. Preservation brings a richness to this community, and the Garden House will only serve to energize this area even further."

"These buildings tell stories," she reminded the audience. "And when we take care to preserve them for the next generation, these stories are retold and come to life for others."

Here are some additional pictures of this morning's event and the interior of the newly-renovated structure. 

A front patio is accessible from one of the rooms.

The Gonzales mural entitled "Tung Oil Industry."

A central hallway

A large number of guests and well-wishers attend the event, including Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, below. 

In her remarks Ms. Condrey-Ward said they had chosen the name "Garden House" because the building sits on what was the original gardens of the Southern Hotel. "Where we are today were tennis courts and formal rose gardens," she said. "It's neat to bring these two properties back together again."

  The post office was located on the New Hampshire Street side inside the Southern Hotel at one time, and when the brick post office building was constructed on the Vermont Street corner in 1937, the post office moved from inside the hotel to the new building. 

 Back when it was a post office

She mentioned that Ralph Menetre, a longtime Covington resident who was present at the day's ceremony, actually worked in the new building when he was young. His father had been the postmaster in the Southern Hotel and served as postmaster again in the new building in the 1940's.

"I love this building, and I especially love the mural painted by Xavier Gonzales," she went on to say. The mural spotlights the hard-working people who took part in the tung oil industry in St. Tammany Parish.  "We are proud to be able to restore it and preserve it going forward."

"I thank the school board for its stewardship of the mural inside the front lobby," she explained. "We worked to restore it, but it really wasn't in too bad of shape."

In 1983 John Kemp wrote a detailed article about Gonzales, who was still living in New York at the time. Click on the image below to read what Kemp wrote about the painting, its creator, and the people portrayed within it.

  Southern Hotel has hosted people from all over the United States and from all over the world, Ms. Condrey-Ward stated. "And they seem to love our little hotel and love our little town."

She said that the conference room may be rented separately or could be part of a package of rooms available to a wedding party or other group. The outside garden area is also available for special events and could even serve as the setting for a small wedding, she noted. 

Superintendent of Schools Trey Folse was impressed with the transition of the structure from a school board annex last year to a number of hotel suites amid a garden setting. "I'm proud the School System was a part of it for so many years, and I appreciate the owners telling how we did our part to take care of it and preserve it." He said it is a special building and it was good to see what improvements had been made to it.

The Southern Hotel website described the Garden House as a spectacular renovation of the 1937 Covington Post Office adjacent to the Southern Hotel. Guests will find "unique, individually appointed suites featuring stunning d├ęcor, original works of art, living areas with wet bars, refrigerators, and coffeemakers. The suites range from 359 to 630 square feet. "

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has in its collection the original "study" artwork that Gonzales created as a forerunner to the finished "Tung Oil Industry" mural in the Covington post office building. That "study" for the mural, produced with pen and ink and pencil on heavy paper, looked like this:

For many years it served as a School Board annex office

See also:

Old Boston Street Post Office

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

New Honorary Deputy Sheriff Named

This comes from the front page of the September 22, 1972, Mandeville Bantam newspaper. Click on the image to make it larger. If some of you younger folks don't remember Zsa Zsa Gabor, here's a picture. 

Odenheimer's Golf Course

Halfway to Folsom on Hwy. 25 northward out of Covington was the Odenheim Golf Course, a six hole roadside golf haven for area enthusiasts. It was a private golf course at first, according to reports.

A 1942 USGS Map shows the golf course at the corner of Hwy. 22 and Bennett Bridge Road.


This 1958 USGS Map also listed the golf course.

Robert Mendheim recalls that the Odenheimer's had a home on the river directly across Hwy 25 from the golf course. 

At that time, golfers heading to the course would stop at a store down the road to pay $3.00 to play a round, using a kind of "honor system," according to those familiar with the operation. Some say it only had 3 greens but around 6 tee boxes.

The course became a nine hole course after Vic Osbon bought it years later, and he named it "Lake Hills Golf Course." He built a clubhouse there in the early 1970's. Tournaments were held and the facility grew in popularity. Osbon owned the facility for several years, and even installed lights for playing at night, and, according to personal recollections on Facebook, it may have been the first lighted golf course in the state.

People who lived in the area have many fond memories as kids of swimming for golf balls in the several ponds on the course as a kid. North Covington area residents remember their fathers playing at the golf course, and oftentimes the dads would bring the kids along, introducing them to the sport. 

Not only that, but the course over the years employed a number of young people to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the facility as well as caddies for the players. Those young people learned the game and went on to play at other regional golf courses, area residents recall. 

At one time, the clubhouse featured a restaurant called the Winners Circle. 

From this aerial photo made in 1999, some 19 years ago, the golf course layout can still be seen.Edward T. Riecke of Covington bought the approximately 30 acres in the late 1970's after the death of Osbon.

Over the past several decades, the Covington area has seen a number of golf courses come and go. There was one behind River Forest Subdivision at one time, there was a golf driving range on Hwy. 25 just north of Covington, Fontainebleau State Park constructed a golf course in the late 1930's, and of course, there was the Louis Prima "Pretty Acres" golf course on U.S. 190 between Covington and Mandeville. Today there are Beau Chene, Covington Country Club, Tchefuncta Country Club, the Abita Springs Golf Course between Abita and Talisheek, Money Hill Golf Club, as well as a couple of smaller private ones.

See also:


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dorignac's Farms Aerial Photo 1975

Here's an aerial photograph I took of Dorignac's Farms on Old Military Road (La. Hwy. 1082) back in 1975, forty-three years ago. Click on the image to make it larger. 


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Robert Rucker

One of the great artists to live in St. Tammany Parish, and Abita Springs in particular, was Robert Rucker. Twenty-four years ago, in 1994, the Louisiana Public Broadcasting interviewed him about his work, his love of Louisiana, and his hometown of Abita Springs. 

In the interview, he reveals what motivated him to paint Louisiana scenes and try to capture that Louisiana spirit. Here is a link to the "Louisiana Legends" video of that interview. 

Video Link

After you click on the above link and go to the new page, scroll down a bit and click on the play triangle in the center of the screen. 

Three years later, in 1997, he was honored at the Louisiana Legends Gala Banquet.

 CLICK HERE for a link to that presentation. 

After you click on the above link and go to the new page, scroll down a bit and click on the play triangle in the center of the screen.

The Louisiana Legends Awards Gala is a special annual event hosted by Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting that honors Louisiana residents who have distinguished themselves in a variety of disciplines and have brought honor to the state. The Louisiana Legends series highlights outstanding Louisianans who have distinguished themselves in a variety of disciplines including writing, art, entertainment, politics, public service and athletics. 

I worked with Robert Rucker in the mid-1980's when he was commissioned to do a painting for the Covington chamber of commerce for the cover of their annual magazine. As editor of that magazine, I was putting together the photography and articles for the inside, and Rucker was creating a painting of the front gate of Bogue Falaya Park. Click on the image to make it larger.

Prints were also being made of the painting for the chamber to sell as a fund-raiser, and when it came time to do the "signing and numbering" of the prints, I did the numbering while he did the signing.  He was great to work with and his art has definitely made Louisiana a better place since it encapsulates and memorializes Louisiana life, especially the riverboats and New Orleans music scene.  

Click on the article below to make it larger and more readable. 

On the website, more details are given about his life and motivations. 

"Robert Rucker was a native of New Orleans, and he opened his own gallery in the French Quarter at the age of sixteen. Immediately, Rucker found himself surrounded by fine artists of the New Orleans area, like Knute Heldner and Clarence Millet, two of his earliest influences. At the age of seventeen, he developed polio, an event that led him to art.

"Because of his illness, the Louisiana Department of Education funded his schooling at the John McCrady School of Fine Arts in New Orleans. Rucker studied under McCrady for the next five years, developing a style that would later become synonymous with New Orleans and the surrounding countryside of the Mississippi Delta.

"Rucker's most famous subject is perhaps the steamboat. His love of them came from his family, having two grandfathers who were steamboat captains. He produced many variations on the theme during his career. He is also well known for various bayou scenes and the south Louisiana countryside, themes that he eventually began to render in an impressionistic style and often with pastel tones during the late 1970's and early 1980's.

"Rucker held exhibits in Baton Rouge and New Orleans as well as Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis and Cleveland. In addition to being an art teacher at his own gallery, he was a textile designer, an art teacher for the City of New Orleans and a medical artist for Tulane Medical School. Robert Rucker died of a heart attack in 2001.

See also:

Wikipedia Article about Robert Rucker

Steamboat Paintings by Robert Rucker, page 1

Steamboat Paintings by Robert Rucker, page 2 

Other "Louisiana Legends" have included Justin Wilson and Rolland Golden.