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Posts Tagged ‘archives’

I recently mentioned my interest in a couple of collections at the LSU-Shreveport Archives & Special Collections in northwest Louisiana.  The goal was to learn more about the Lambert Landscape Company, which may have played a role in the early development and design of Hodges Gardens.

I connected with head archivist Dr. Laura McLemore, and she was kind enough to preview the collections.  The materials within don’t appear to hold any clues to further my knowledge of Lambert’s role in Hodges Gardens landscape history, but a document I found yesterday helps bring things into perspective.  The image below is a photo of the recently found document—a schedule of introductions from the 1959 grand opening at Hodges Gardens.

The early historians and archivists at Hodges Gardens did an impressive service to the future understanding of this special place. Today, more than 52 years after the printing of this opening ceremony document, this historic landscape research is benefiting from its being saved. This really speaks to the fact that documents and articles of any type and perspective can be helpful resources in historic landscape research (Hodges Foundation Archive).

This document tells me quite a bit.  It’s a list of folks who were recognized for their contribution to the creation of Hodges Gardens.  Donald Bush of Hare & Hare, Marshall & John of Walker & Walker, and construction manager C.B. Byrd are listed, among others.  The Bush/Hare name, however, is the only landscape architect noted.  Obviously, Lambert may still have played an important role, and for some reason or another the group just wasn’t recognized at this event.  While I know Lambert was associated with A.J. as his landscape architect, thus far I’ve only seen this connection in one document: a letter in which a wholesale supplies company representative thanks A.J. Hodges and “[his] landscape architect Mr. Lambert” for their visit to a Tennessee quarry.

In the case of Hodges Gardens, was Lambert primarily serving once or twice as a consultant on construction materials research?  It may be a while before I know the answer to this question, but in the meantime, I think it’s time to press forward.  There’s more to discover and document—for one, a conclusion I’m forming regarding the Garden’s connection with Eugene H. Fleming, III.  For now, Lambert traveled with Hodges to a crab orchard stone quarry in Tennesee (stone of which was not ordered)—beyond that understanding, future research may hold more clarification.

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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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The next day was a Tuesday.  Debbie and I drove to Hodges Gardens State Park.  We called ahead to make sure Park Manager Kim Kelly could meet, as she is the primary contact for our interest in park archives here at Hodges.  Again, with the southern heat in mind, we departed Natchitoches a little after 7am, and spent the morning photo-documenting the park landscape.

We met Kim in the Gift Shop at 11am and had a brief chat about some of our discoveries in the field.   We then walked through the break room into an office space in the back of the building.  Though we had heard some archives items existed, the amount of material that lay before us was incredible.  Scrapbooks piled up to three or four feet off the ground occupied a shelf on the left wall.  Kim took one book down, and it was full of historic site photographs.  I saw 4 or 5 book-sized scrapbooks, plus several oversized (a foot or so by a couple feet in closed dimensions) scrapbooks.  We opened three or four more, and found several more sections of photographs as well as newspaper clippings.  Slightly overwhelming, but wonderful–and full of so much potential.  Many answers to recent landscape evolution and backing details of certain elements of the significance of Hodges Gardens could be in these books.  Several more hours will likely be spent with these materials.

Scrapbooks at the Park. Here is a sample of some of the awesome scrapbooks at the Park. A.J. Hodges, founder of Hodges Gardens, hired historians to document correspondence and press that dealt with the Gardens.

Hodges Gardens promotional image. An colorful sample from the park archives. Image credit: Hodges Gardens archives.

Illuminating Engineering Society. Another archive sample. We were noting the architect Walker & Walker in the bottom left of the document. As the firm seems to be out of business, we are having trouble contacting anyone from this party. A landscape masterplan from Walker & Walker or someone else could be very beneficial at this time. Image credit: Hodges Gardens archives.

In addition to her showing us the archives, Manager Kim Kelly also shared several contacts with us–folks who might hold clues or have suggestions on where to look for more answers to questions that may arise during the documentation process.   Attempting to plan for the unknown can be overwhelming on complex projects, but this is often the best way to go.  [Here today..not necessarily here tomorrow].  We will continue to consult the list throughout the summer.

To-do List. A list of additional opportunities and tasks that was created in response to the park archives visit.

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The days have been flying by, and I am new to blogging.  Here are some updates on project happenings thus far.

DAY 1, ARRIVING AT HODGES GARDENS:  The first day of this landscape documentation/blogging project began with a site visit to Hodges Gardens State Park.  I spent about 3.5 hours onsite.  My goal was to become roughly acquainted with the area of focus (for this documentation project, the focus is the designed landscape area).  Although time involved and recommended method of orientation differs by site and project focus, a quick walk-through is generally recommended, if possible.

[As discussed in the ‘About’ page of this site, the goal of this summer project is not to complete a thorough documentation of the Hodges Gardens landscape.  Rather, I am highlighting significant, feasible points from the documentation process during a 10 week assignment.  The goal is to outline friendly, concise guidelines that are formed from real-world high (or low) points of this case study.  The backbone of these guidelines will be produced through this blog].

Again, this was a quick walk-through day.. more detail-focused visits would follow.

Since I wanted to be aware of how this designed portion fit into the larger, comprehensive landscape (900+ acres), I planned to begin with a quick drive around the loop road that travels some of the middle-outer regions of the state park landscape.  Consulting aerial images and any available maps certainly help with this larger scale orientation, too.

A few miles south of Florien, Louisiana I found the entry to Hodges Gardens State Park on my left—just a few yards after I passed the entrance.  The staff at Hodges (and the landscape character off the wide shoulders of U.S. 171) tell me that this road was expanded into a 4-lane, divided highway within the last 12 or so years.  Sparing you my opinion of this highway project, I will simply say that Park visitors should be on the alert for the entrance after passing the community of Florien…Or after passing Hornbeck, LA, if traveling north on 171.

After briefly viewing Texas Overlook—an outlook to the north and west at approximately 430ft above sea level—I was courteously greeted at the front entrance gate.  Following a brief ‘good morning’ and name exchange, the entrance gate staff member contacted a Kim Kelly.   Lacking much administration knowledge of the Park at this time, I stood at the entrance booth not realizing Kelley was park manager at Hodges.  Verifying that my professionalism hat was on for whatever lay ahead, I proceeded over to the administration office, and was kindly greeted by Kim just inside the door.  I quickly read her nametag, which indeed identified her as park manager.  This was a pleasant, awesome surprise!  After a warm welcome, brief orientation of the park, and sneak peek into a few samples from the Park archives, I began my tour of the Gardens.

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