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Posts Tagged ‘House Island’

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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Last Wednesday, July 27, I posted to the NCPTT website and shared a summary of this Hodges Gardens research.  The National Center for Preservation Technology & Training progresses preservation research, and it partners with the private and public sector through education, training, and grants.  I provided a link on the NCPTT post to encourage more readers to visit this Exploring Hodges Gardens blog.   You can check out the post, and learn more about NCPTT and the Historic Landscapes program here at http://ncptt.nps.gov/category/historic-landscapes/

I hope you enjoyed the House Island photos shared in the previous post.  I have several more photos I would like to share, and am working on making images available on Flickr.com.  This will help keep blog posts at a reasonable length and provide an exciting atmosphere to continue expanding the online Hodges Gardens community through this historic landscape research.  View the Exploring Hodges Gardens Flickr photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploringhodgesgardens/   Many of the House Island photos I uploaded in Flickr were taken by Jennifer Mui, NCPTT Architecture & Engineering intern.

Exploring Hodges Gardens Flickr photo page. See more Hodges Gardens research photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploringhodgesgardens/

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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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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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When Debbie and I arrived at Hodges Gardens State Park it was raining heavily.  So nice.  This marked the 2nd day consecutive day of significant rainfall  for the Sabine/Natchitoches Parish area, which brought the first measurable precipitation to most of the area in more than a month.  Triple digit midday temps were traded for upper 70s.  We met at 10am, and the rain continued heavily for the next hour and a half.  I caught glimpses out the window from time to time, and the rain appeared to fall in tender pieces and sheets across the large open field in my view.

The historic aerials were awesome.  With coverage of most of Sabine Parish, we spent a little time matching up adjacent shots.  For our purposes, I am thankful that our site is centered around a 225 acre lake.  This water body made finding our area of interest within the greater coverage area much easier.

1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial images. Lining up adjacent photos.

With low vegetation and a flyover date of March 1959, these were excellent images.  As we finished lining up images (2’ x 2’ each), I set up the scanner and laptop.  Although I had set up the scanner’s software on my desktop computer back at the office, I failed to install it onto the laptop that we found in the office earlier that morning.  So, (Laptop + scanner) – scanner software = no scanning.   Lesson learned here: check and double check equipment/technology (especially any units being used for the first time) before heading to the field.

Thankfully we were able to capture some decent images of the aerials with our camera.  Although we plan to meet up with the images owner later to resume scanning, it was important that we captured copies in some form while we had the images present.

Hope you enjoy the aerials below.  These were saved from the dumpster several years ago when a young man was cleaning out a storage unit his father owned.  After the U.S. Forest Service ended an office unit lease from the image owner’s father, these were left in a pile on the floor.

1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial; near Hornbeck, LA. We photographed every 2' x 2' image of interest without a flash. In case logistics delay scanning these originals in the future, these camera images will be quite helpful in our understanding the early layout of Hodges Gardens.

1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial image. Note the main lake and airstrip at Hodges Gardens in the top right. The three northwest to southeast running lines in the left half of the image, in increasing distance from the lake, are: a utility line, U.S. 171, and a railroad track.

1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial; detail of lake and main gardens area, just two (2) years after its' opening to the public. Note triangular entrance area at top left, bridge to Flag Island (named Nandina Island at this time) at bottom middle (circular island), and the Hodges' private residence on House Island at middle right. The smaller structure at water's edge on House Island is a boat dock. Designed for accessibility, a ferry was set up to transport family or guests from the mainland to the island dock. An underground tunnel and elevator system was available to bring any persons from the dock into the house (perhaps into a basement room, as the island's elevation slopes upward in the middle).

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