Posts Tagged ‘A.J. Hodges’

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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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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House Island, historic residence of Hodges Gardens founders A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges, hasn’t been regularly occupied since A.J.’s death in 1966.  While Nona Trigg passed away in 1959, A.J. continued to occupy the house, and also remarried.  After 66′, I understand that only temporary visits and occasions brought family back to the house.

Bordered by a stone retaining wall around the entire island perimeter, House Island is currently closed to the public.  No trespassin’, please.  The Island is eight (8) acres of sparsely wooded, sloping, grassy land within a 225 acre lake. (This lake is usually unnamed, but I have seen it referred to as ‘Forest Lake’).  Though neglected for years, the Hodges residence (completed in 1956) is largely in good shape, and only minimally disturbed by rodents and water damage.  Though the house must be at least 10,000 square feet in size, the well constructed building is not an obtrusive money mound on the landscape.  Rather, the two story structure was tastefully cited partially within the hillside, and is tucked amongst mature trees (many of which were planted in the 1950s).  Last Friday, July 22 Debbie and I arranged a visit to the island with both NCPTT and Hodges Gardens staff.  There are abundant opportunities for future research at Hodges Gardens, including that of mid-20th century architecture.  Some photos from our guided visit follow.

NCPTT group approaches A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges House (circa mid 1950s), House Island, Hodges Gardens.

Retaining wall, House Island. This stone retaining wall circles the entire perimeter of the 8 acre island.

Boat dock, House Island. The island was connected to the mainland via a ferry that ran on an underwater cable.

A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges residence (completed 1956). Looking NNW toward house wing that faces southeast. Photo credit: Jennifer Mui, NCPTT Architecture & Engineering intern.

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Cammie G. Henry. Image credit: Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

Thursday, June 9 brought Debbie and me to the Cammie G. Henry Research Center at Northwestern State University here in Natchitoches.  Quick, initial research showed us that Louisiana native Caroline Dorman–author, conservationist, horticulturist (and several other hats)–was somehow involved in the early years of Hodges Gardens, perhaps through planning or consulting.  We called the folks at the Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve, and they highly recommended our checking with the Cammie G. Henry Center.

[Hosting items associated with such subjects as Kate Chopin and the Federal Writer’s Project, the Center is named after a woman who collected Louisiana documents and books and lived at Melrose Plantation.  An establishment with a rich and significant history, Melrose is located in a community of the same name, along Cane River Lake south of Natchitoches].

We met Mary Linn Wernet, Head Archivist and University Records Officer, during our appointment just after lunch.  Since we consulted the Center’s online database beforehand, we were able to request our items shortly after arriving.  There were three (3) folders of interest to us—collections of documents related to Caroline Dorman / Hodges Gardens / A.J. Hodges correspondence.   I’ve highlighted some of our discoveries below.  [Credit for the following notes and any related images to: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Watson Memorial Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Dorman Collection, Folders 171, 172, 173 ].

–          January 5, 1954: A letter from this date documents what appears to be Caroline Dorman’s first correspondence with Hodges Gardens founder A.J. Hodges.  Citing her wild flower preserve, she contacts him with interest in conversing about the his development of the Gardens.  She also mentions her collection of rare and native (to the South) trees and flowers.

–          May 18, 1955: A.J Hodges appoints Caroline Dorman as “Consultant on Natural Areas.”

–          Names and notes to further investigate:  a Mr. Marshman; “landscape man from Kansas City;” Bruce and Lee, landscape workers; a Mr. Evans; Owen Lattimore; S.D Coleman Nurseries; W.J. Chalupnik, horticulturist.

–          July 26, 1956: Caroline Dorman expresses interest in resigning and desires a discussion with Hodges on the subject

Caroline Dorman (1888-1971). During the early years of Hodges Gardens, Dorman was appointed "Consultant on Natural Areas." I am a new fan of this Louisiana native. Among her many accomplishments, she was a leader in establishing the Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana's only U.S. Forest unit. Image credit: Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Northwestern State University of Louisiana and KnowLA, the encyclopedia of Louisiana history and culture.

Samples from material viewed at Cammie G. Henry Research Center. Credit: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Watson Memorial Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Dorman Collection.

Scanning documents. Looking for correspondence between Caroline Dorman and Hodges Gardens founder A.J. Hodges. Image credit: Debbie Smith, NCPTT; Documents credit: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Watson Memorial Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Dorman Collection.

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