Archive for August, 2011

Home sweet home. These colorful (note the hidden red one) birdhouses provide a covered resting space for birds in flight near the historic greenhouse complex at Hodges Gardens State Park.

Though this blog has taken a break for the past few weeks, I wanted to let you know that I am on schedule to resume posting by mid-September.  I am excited to have been offered a fall internship to continue research with NCPTT in Natchitoches.  In between summer and fall internships, I have enjoyed time at home in Arkansas.  Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to sharing more documentation highlights.

1950s Lord & Burnham greenhouse. Featuring original fixtures, interior stonework, and other features, the historic integrity of the Hodges Gardens greenhouse complex shines through the original craftsmanship of the facility.

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Ogilvie Hardware Company, Inc. Original fencing purchase/order verification letter from Ogilvie to A.J. Hodges. Note the request for 396 rolls of 200' length mesh, non-climbable fencing. The 79,200 feet of fencing requested equals an even 15 miles. Nona remembers the shock and excitement that rose in the employees' eyes upon her granddad's initial request at the hardware store. Letter dated August 14, 1950. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Nona Dailey–granddaughter of Hodges Gardens founders A.J. & Nona Trigg Hodges and daughter of John Joseph Dailey, Jr, & Laura Trigg Hodges–met us at the NCPTT office last Thursday.  Hodges Gardens manager Kim Kelly has been really helpful in connecting Debbie and me to a host of helpful folks and was responsible for initiating these meeting arrangements.  Debbie and I shared a brief slideshow that covered some research updates from our discoveries this summer.  We also highlighted some of our current questions..

(1) to what extent, if any, did Hare & Hare and Walker & Walker collaborate on Hodges Gardens projects?  (materials and craftsmanship is largely similar throughout both landscape and architectural elements);

(2) Extent of Hare & Hare influence on the landscape (we have found some unmarked construction drawings that look similar to, but slightly altered from, some original corresponding Hare & Hare credited masterplan phase drawings;

(3) Quarry connection/inspiration in Gardens design? (Where historic quarry paths incorporated into the 1950s Garden design)? – Research thus far hints at this, but I am curious on the extent of this.

An investment banker and triathlon competitor based in Shreveport, Nona has been very supportive and helpful through our correspondence with her thus far, so it was  a pleasure to finally meet.  She shared a few brief personal memories of Hodges Gardens:

(1) Nona remembers picnicking with her mother near Hodges Gardens construction areas on visits to her grandparents, A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges.

(2) The four similar bedroom suites on the top floor of the Hodges residence were designed for the families of each of A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges’ four (4) children.

(3) Nona mentioned visiting a Shreveport hardware store to inquire about fencing for the Hodges Gardens property.  She remembers employees’ shock and pleasant surprise at her granddad’s request for 15+ miles of fencing.  An original correspondence letter between Ogilvie Hardware Company and A.J. Hodges begins this blog post.  Note the request for 396 rolls of 200′ length mesh, non-climbable fencing.  The 79,200 feet of fencing requested equals an even 15 miles.  Nona remembers the shock turn to excitement in employees’ eyes upon her granddad’s initial request for 15 miles of fencing.

Ogilvie’s closed in 1999, but an early 2011 news report notes that a Dallas realty company plans to renovate and convert the building into a 90 unit apartment building.  This 1926 downtown structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the apartments should give the building new life by January 2012 after remaining vacant since Ogilvie’s departure.  More information on Ogilvie’s Hardware Building is available through Shreveport’s Downtown Development Authority.  Beautiful photos of Ogilvie’s can be found online, including this one from a Flickr account by Brandon Brasseaux.

Elevation view of proposed fence design. Hatched area at bottom represents the earth and ground plane, while 6 feet of mesh and 2 feet of barbed wire fencing rise above. Original drawing circa 1950. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

(4) Establishing such an industrious fence in southern Sabine Parish was no doubt turning some heads in 1950.  As folks questioned what was happening behind the 15 miles of fence, Nona remembers rising rumors including suspicion of a nuclear weapons storage facility.  In other circles, rumors rose that perhaps Hodges was assisting in a gold hoarding operation with comparisons to the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.  Although Hodges was simply creating a private residence and garden to share with friends and family, he felt the need to disprove these rumors.  According to Nona, this is part of the reason A.J. Hodges decided to open the Gardens to the public.  By opening the gates, he could retain his private getaway on House Island while negating gold and missile rumors and sharing his love of landscape with others.

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As posted on July 18, I met with Ben D. Peterson to discuss the early years of Hodges Gardens.  Prior to joining the Marine Corps in 1955, Ben D. installed fence, worked on the plumbing crew, and poured concrete via wheelbarrow at Hodges Gardens.  The following clip is a brief, unedited fraction of our conversation, but I wanted to share something before the summer winds down.

In this video Ben. D. shares on the following:

– A.J. Hodges’ acquisition of the land where the Gardens would be established
– the Cole Family; according to Ben D., the Coles were the last family to sell their property to Hodges, and many of the family members were employed by Hodges Gardens for a number of years
– the character/personality of A.J. Hodges
–  Ben D.’s contribution to the Garden through fencing, plumbing, and concrete work

For more background information on this interview, visit the July 18 post at https://exploringhodgesgardens.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/a-day-with-ben-d-peterson/

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The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, the statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, met at the Hodges Gardens Gift Shop last Saturday, July 30 for a working meeting.  Hodges Gardens Manager Kim Kelly invited Debbie and me to the meeting and encouraged us to speak briefly on the history of the Gardens as well as on my research through this Exploring Hodges Gardens project.

Kim welcomed the group a little after 9am, and I shared a brief overview of the Hodges Gardens research.   Debbie covered some notable history of Hodges Gardens landscape architects Hare & Hare.  The Louisiana Trust is very much interested in Hodges Gardens, and would like to see the landscape nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.  As we continue to understand the the nationally recognized landscape architects’ influence on Hodges Gardens, this will bring more national significance to the property, which should increase its’ eligibility for a National Register listing.  The naturally-lit Hodges Gardens Gift Shop (c. 1962) provided a pleasant meeting space for the National Trust meeting.  Thanks again to Kim for connecting us with this group and introducing us to Louisiana National Trust leaders.

Discussion with the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, the statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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As mentioned earlier, Hodges Gardens holds opportunity for much future research–in architecture, landscape architecture, horticulture, 1950s/1960s tourism, adaptive reuse of architecture/landscapes,  archival and collections planning/management, sustainable site development/management, Louisiana history, and other areas.

The potential for these opportunities has further come to light with me upon some recent archival discoveries.  In addition to an impressive scrapbook collection of newspaper articles and on-site photos, several other items have been preserved by the Hodges Foundation.  Below are some outstanding House Island discoveries.

Studying site layout plan for House Island. The contour lines note that the elevation at the top of House Island sits a little more than 27 feet above the water's edge.

Architectural model, Hodges residence. This is our photograph of an image capturing this model. Construction of the residence was completed in 1956; the pool was not implemented. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Hodges Residence, downstairs floor plan, Walker & Walker Architects. Note four primary wings with a plan view of the tunnel bending out of the western wing. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Hodges Residence, downstairs floor plan, tunnel area detail, Walker & Walker Architects. Credit: Hodges Foundation.

Connecting Tunnel, House Island. Looking west, toward boat landing. This stonework-constructed gently sloping tunnel connecting the House Island boat landing with the bottom level of the Hodges residence. The proposed master plan in the above image shows the tunnel in plan view.

Hodges Residence, upstairs floor plan, Walker & Walker Architects. The central living area occupies the south wing, master suites occupy the west wing, and the dining room and porch/porch kitchen occupy the east wing. Restrooms are located near the intersection of the four wings while additional bedrooms/baths occupy the north wing. Hodges Foundation.

Central living area, Hodges residence. As noted in the floor plan above, the central living area occupies the majority of the south wing of the residence. Photo credit: Jennifer Mui.

Tiled bathroom wall, Hodges Residence. The good overall condition and craftsmanship visible at the residence today is proof of the quality of construction of this building in the 1950s.

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