Heart of Louisiana: Endangered Places

Heart of Louisiana: Endangered Places

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - For the past two decades, this group has been identifying and then working to save historic structures in Louisiana that are in danger of being lost.

One of their current projects is a saloon turned grocery store in Donaldsonville. Dave McNamara shows us the work of the Louisiana Trust for historic preservation, and its most endangered places, in the Heart of Louisiana.

The city of Donaldsonville has a historic district that’s packed with old buildings. Some of them predate the Civil War and survived the bombardment by the union navy. Local chef John Folse bought one of those survivors

“To find one of those seven homes standing, after Farragut bombarded Donaldsonville during the civil war and to restore the home for my own, this was a very important thing for me and it only encouraged me to do more," Folse said.

Then Folse bought another old building, across the street, the old Mistretta grocery store.

“The union forces occupied that building as their headquarters and the generals moved into this house. so the civil war was right here in Donaldsonville,” Folse said.

To save the store from collapse, Folse renovated it a couple of times and then gave the building to the city.

Lee Melancon is with the Donaldsonville Area Foundation, which is now working to breathe new life into the old building.

“We’ve got photographic evidence of the building being a saloon and perhaps a Bordello on the second floor,” Melancon said. “Me In fact, the calling windows are still up on the second floor and you can see behind me the beautiful stairwell that the ladies might’ve come down and enticed the gentlemen.”

He looks to convert the building into its new use as the Donaldson, the historic Donaldsonville General Store and Museum.

The Mistretta Store is one of many structures identified as an ‘endangered place’ by the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation.

“For the past 20 years, we’ve highlighted those properties that are really a need, a special assistance, and special focus to make sure they’re still around for many years to come. And so over those the 20 years, we’ve highlighted 134 different properties,” Brian Davis with the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservations said.

He explained why he thinks the building is special.

“I think it’s such a unique representation of this, of the culture, whether it’s the architecture or the historic events that were there or the people that are associated with it,” Davis said.

And the group has supported a variety of restoration projects, like this old dairy barn in Pineville.

“It’s more like a midwestern barn and so the fact that it’s here in Louisiana makes it kind of unique," Davis said.

The 1850’s Lighthouse at Sabine Pass just illuminated light in it for the first time in many years.

The Lorraine bridge is a historic crossing over Bayou Lacassine.

“All the cattle farmers or ranchers in that part brought their steers to market that over that bridge and all this really tells the people that made Louisiana,” David said. "I think that’s really, you know, our, our culture and that’s why we have to save it.

They are taking places with an important past and trying to ensure that is preserved for the future.

For more information visit the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservations website here and their Facebook.

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