Heart of Louisiana: Louisiana Treasures Museum

Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 12:35 AM CDT|Updated: Dec. 22, 2016 at 3:46 PM CST
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(WVUE) - Every week, we introduce you to some of our state's treasures in the Heart of Louisiana. A few days ago, before the rains began, Dave McNamara took a tour of the Louisiana Treasures Museum near Ponchatoula. That museum became a victim of the flooding. Tonight it sits underwater. But it's worth seeing how it was before this past weekend.

From the highway, the place looks a little unusual with a windmill, an old cabin, an outhouse and even a portable jail in the front yard.

"That was a jail that was pulled by four horses," said curator Wayne Norwood. "It was built in 1906."

And when you step inside, you realize why Norwood calls this the Louisiana Treasures Museum.

"Some people come in here and they see my Civil War stuff or stuff from World War One or Two, and boy that's what they're interested in," Norwood said. "Others come in they see the bottles, they're interested in the bottles. Some come in and see some of the old cameras."

Norwood stumbled onto this near lifelong hobby when he was working as a diver for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriffs Department.

McNamara: "So all of this got started almost 50 years ago with one bottle?"

Norwood: "One bottle."

McNamara: "It's one of these?"

Norwood: "One of these. I found one of those bottles, and it was strange looking and I got it checked and they said it's from the 1700s. So that started all of this.

The bottles now number more than 3,000 of every size and type. Many of these artifacts come from the remains of communities that no longer exist along the western edge of Lake Pontchartrain. The towns of Frenier, Ruddock and Napton were destroyed a century ago by a hurricane.

"When the wind blows out of the northwest, Lake Pontchartrain will go way, way down, and the lakeshore is exposed, and that's where houses used to be - where the water is at now," Norwood said. "And I'll hunt those places.

It's likely that some of the items date back a couple of thousand years - the arrow points, the stone tools and pottery pieces of Native Americans.  And dugout canoes. One from an early European settler and one from Native Americans.

"It's a dugout," Norwood said. "It's 19 foot long, out of a cypress log."

But Norwood and his wife, Debbie, now face a major setback. Two days after our visit, their museum was inundated by a historic flood.

"Yep, this is our museum," said Debbie. "This was our museum."

They've posted images on their Facebook page along with the message that Louisiana Treasures Museum is a total loss. No flood insurance. Not in a flood zone.

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