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Archive for the ‘Historic Photographs’ Category

A watercourse draws the eye through the landscape in this springtime photo from 1966. Hodges Foundation Archive.

The Dallas Times Herald announced the Hodges Gardens spring season with this paper magazine cover on April 3, 1966.  This view appears to be taken on the second/middle level of the main gardens–one of the most visited areas in the Garden today.

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Centenary College Choir members pause at the historic Hodges Gardens entrance, circa 1967-69. Hodges Foundation Archive.

“Centenary College Choir; this VW courtesy of Moffitt Volkswagen, Inc.”  This undated photograph from the archive provides an exercise in dating older photographs–a useful tool for recognizing and documenting landscape change.  Where maps are unavailable or lack a specific focus or detail, clues about the historic landscape can often be found in older photos–even those that were intended for entirely different purposes, such as a highlight of this student choir trip as photographed above.  A visit to the landscape can then assist with comparing the historic with existing conditions.

In the above example, it is difficult to revisit the exact location in the landscape, because this entire entrance area has changed since its original design in the mid-1950’s.  When U.S. Highway 171 (the road from which these students just exited) was expanded to a divided highway, nearly all the additional land acquired by the highway department came from the Hodges Gardens (east) side of the road.  The entrance sign and fence were removed, and autos now travel on top of the land in the foreground above.

The shiny Type 2 (T2) Volkswagon pictured above dates the photo to no earlier than 1967.  Though similar to Volkswagon’s Type 2 (T1)–originally marketed in the U.S. from 1950-1967–the Type 2 (T2) was sold in the U.S. from 1967-1979.  On the other end of my timeframe estimate, I’m considering vegetation, the appearance of the students, and the fact that the vehicle is a courtesy car from a Volkswagon dealership.  Given only the latter clue, I’d say the photo is not much more recent than 1979, because the dealership was more likely to provide a new/recent model for courtesy vehicles–particularly for advertisement purposes.  Considering the height of the planted pines and the style of the students, I would estimate this photo was snapped between 1967 and ’70.  If you see any other helpful clues in the photograph, I’d love to hear from you in this post’s comment space.  Volkswagon fans: do you see anything else in the character of the van that helps pinpoint the manufacture year more precisely than ’67-’79?

Established in 1941, Shreveport’s Centenary College Choir has performed around the world, and plays an important role in the culture and community of the Shreveport / Ark-La-Tex region.  Through both performances and retreats, the Choir has been closely tied to Hodges Gardens for five (5) decades.

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Main Entrance, Hodges Gardens, 1960. This image is scanned from an original copy of the Hodges Gardens Magazet, Volume 1, Number 4. Published quarterly, the Magazet was a brief magazine showcasing literature and announcements related to the Garden, as well as articles on contextual themes and attractions. Note the pine cones topping the two entry gate posts and the entry road topping the low hill in the distance. The top of this hill is the location of the present day entrance station and area referred to as the Texas Overlook. Image credit: John Byrd.

Entrance elevation proposal, Walker & Walker Architects, Shreveport, LA. 1952. Image credit: Hodges Foundation archives.

Entrance gate proposal, plan view, Walker & Walker Architects, Shreveport, Louisiana. 1952. Image credit: Hodges Foundation archives.

Pine cone post detail. Note the pine cones topping the entry posts in the historic photo above. Hodges Foundation archive.

Hello, and thank you for visiting.  I am excited to be back at the National Center for Preservation Technology & Training and back on WordPress.  If you are new to this blog, I encourage you to check out earlier posts or the ‘About’ page if you want to learn more about the background of this project.  Essentially, Exploring Hodges Gardens is a blog in which I highlight challenges and discoveries of an historic landscape documentation at this site.  If you have been here before, thank you again for your continued interest in this work and your support of Hodges Gardens State Park.

The images above are proposals and a resulting view of the original entrance to Hodges Gardens.  The drawings are dated April 1952, and are original copies from the architects Walker & Walker of Shreveport, Louisiana.  The 1950s were the primary years of Garden construction.  When comparing the 1960 photograph with the earlier proposal, notice the differing character of the stone entry sign.

Though the location of the entrance is nearly the same today, the aesthetics of the area have changed significantly.  When U.S. Hwy 171 was expanded into a 4-lane divided highway, the entry was pushed further from the original road corridor.  The stone entry sign, gateway, and entrance office are no longer extant.  While the loss of these structures is unfortunate, today’s entry experience is impressive in its own right.  Pine trees have matured, and as soon as the visitor leaves the vastness of the excessively wide U.S. Highway corridor, she enters into the sanctuary of a pine tree canopy reaching well above the winding entry road, which is true to its original course.  Today’s experience between the entry area pine trees and the present day entrance station at Texas Overlook is one of the most majestic at Hodges Gardens.

Continuing this discovery of recent landscape evolution and documenting quantitative and qualitative characteristics of changed and unchanged features is part of what I look forward to continuing this autumn.  While elements and aesthetics have been altered at the Garden entrance, much of the remainder of Hodges Gardens maintains its historic integrity.  As mentioned near the beginning of the summer, documentation highlights that are shared here will form a foundation and provide case study excerpts for a how-to guide on documenting historic landscapes.  A goal is the production of an easily accessible, friendly document that may assist readers anywhere who are interested in recognizing significant historic landscapes–especially those in their own neighborhoods.

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After our meeting with Ben D. Peterson, we drove north for a 3:30 appointment with Linda Curtis-Sparks, Director of the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission.  Involved in Sabine Parish area tourism for much of her life, we hoped to talk with Linda about the role of Hodges Gardens in the tourism of this area.  An account of this history may bring a better understanding of the rise and fall of different landscape elements and landscape emphases/goals throughout the life of the Garden.

Historical Hodges Gardens Motor Inn & Restaurant. Extant today as Emerald Hills Golf Resort, this facility's connection and proximity to Hodges Gardens created a complex (and would be considered a comprehensive cultural landscape today) that remains a excellent example of the auto-focused tourism that rose and created a culture of tourist courts, cottages, and motels during the middle part of the 20th Century. Historic postcard image courtesy Louisiana-Destinations.com.

From the Gardens’ opening to the public in 1956, Linda believes the Garden saw some its most popular, most visited years from the early 1970s to the early 1980s.  In 1963 Hodges Gardens Motor Inn & Restaurant opened across from the Garden entrance.   This facility brought Hodges Gardens guests easy access to lodging and other amenities.

Toledo Bend Reservoir, a recreation and hydroelectric power source, was completed in 1969.  Created from the damming of the Sabine River on the Louisiana/Texas border, the reservoir is located within close proximity to Hodges Gardens.  At 185,000 acres of surface area, Toledo Bend is the 5th largest reservoir or artificial lake.

While the Gardens and Toledo Bend were the most highly visited regional attractions for several years, Toledo Bend began to surpass Hodges Gardens in visitation.  Linda recalled a disappointing incident when part of the Hodges Gardens Motor Inn–including the original restaurant burned.  As resources and funding covered less ground on the expansive Hodges Gardens, the site saw some rough years and a decline in its visitation–despite the dedicated passion of many–up to the day of its adoption by the Louisiana Office of State Parks.

After hearing a bit on the early years and later years of Hodges Gardens, we asked Linda how she sees the Gardens playing a roll in the future of tourism in this area.  In general, she sees Hodges Gardens’ visitation and popularity continuing to grow.   While Toledo Bend provides great fishing and boating opportunities, Linda believes the Gardens will continue to offer a unique state park experience for garden and outdoor fans, as well as a positive, relaxing atmosphere for the entire family.

Hodges Gardens Motor Inn & Restaurant, looking southeast toward Hodges Gardens entrance. Notice Gardens entry sign and structure across U.S. Hwy 171. The caption in the lower right reads: Relax and have fun in Louisiana’s luxury resort. Breath-taking year ‘round scenic beauty in 4700 acre "Garden in the Forest." Fabulous hospitality at dissimilar Hodges Gardens Motor Inn. Wonderful cuisine. Top-flight service. Convention facilities. Interesting 9-hole golf course. Tennis courts. Swimming pools. Located leisurely distance from 182,000 acre Toledo Bend Lake, vast new recreation area. Heartland of historical Louisiana and Texas landmarks. Image credit: Hodges Gardens archive.

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On Wednesday, July 6, I met with John Byrd, Assistant Professor of Biology here at Northwestern State University.  As mentioned in previous posts, John serves as president of the Friends of Hodges Gardens, and he is also a past director of Hodges Gardens.   John shared stories about scans of historic photos that were taken at the Gardens.  Some images in the collection were taken by John, while others were taken by early Hodges Gardens staff.  Here are a few examples.

Centenary College Choir members enjoying recreation time at the Group Lodge Dock. Circa early 1960s. The oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi, Centenary has a significant connection and history with Hodges Gardens. For more than 50 years, Centenary College Choir has led the Easter Sunrise Service at the Gardens, which continues today. The lodge in the background is no longer extant, and was intentionally demolished within the last two years. Such losses remind me of the importance of documentation.

House Island, during construction of Hodges residence. Circa early 1950s, looking south. This is an awesome aerial image capturing construction in progress. Notice that only the base level of the residence has been completed. Clearly the boat dock is in operation on the right side of the photo. All items used in construction on this island were carried over via ferry between this dock and another on the mainland.

Orchids in a Hodges Gardens greenhouse. 1960's photo. Hodges Gardens maintained state of the art greenhouses manufactured by Lord & Burnham. Managed as conservatories displaying unique species and botanical experiments, the greenhouses also contributed significantly to the sustainability of early Hodges Gardens: many of the plants cited in the landscape were products of the greenhouse complex. Currently neglected, the multiple structures greenhouse complex is a very significant part of the history and overall Hodges Gardens story.

In anticipation for Thursday’s interviews, I spent the last minutes of the day testing the equipment to be used in the field.  The podcast/audio recorder sounded crisp, and the video camera was good to go.  Batteries charged.

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Comparing historic images with current views can be an excellent way to explore recent landscape change, which is important in understanding the full story of a landscape.   After finding the location of an historic image, I attempted to place my camera in just the right spot to capture a view for such analysis.  I must admit, this was an exciting exercise.  See examples of the process below.

Stonework waterway. Comparison of c.1960 image from nearly same location, June 2011. For reference, note the two major lines of curving stone waterway walls, as well as the curving stairway in the top left and three stone benches in the top left quarter of each photo. Clearly, several trees are present and providing welcome summer shade that were not present in the earlier landscape. Though less prominent in the current photo, this area still hosts additional colorful annuals, especially earlier in the spring.

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