Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Caddo Parish Courthouse Remains an Impressive Thing of Beauty

Photo by Amanda Currier
As Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson slips another Confederate monument removal item on the agenda for the Work Session on Tuesday, perhaps this is a good time to note an article in the Louisiana Bar Association Journal this month which profiles historic courthouses throughout the state.

I drive by the courthouse fairly often and have been inside many times, but seldom have taken the time to learn about the history of the building or to appreciate the beauty of its art and architecture.

(I'm going to quote heavily from the LBA journal which quotes heavily from the official Caddo Parish website. No plagiarism is intended and I'll link you back to sources.)

The Caddo Parish courthouse was designed by Shreveport-born architect Edward F. Neild who was apparently a very busy man who designed many well known local buildings including the Louisiana State Exhibit Building at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, the gymnasium and Northwestern State University, and many buildings on the Louisiana Tech campus. Beyond the Louisiana borders, Neild designed the Truman library in Independence, Missouri and was a consulting architect on the rehabilitation of the White House during Truman's administration. He also designed two of the Japanese relocation camps in Arkansas during WWII.

(Photo courtesy of Historic Courthouse)
For the Caddo Parish Courthouse, which dates back to 1926, Neild used pink and gray Tennessee
marble on the floors with a Belgian black marble border. The walls are Rosetta marble and Art Deco flourishes can be seen throughout the foyer especially, and in the exterior ornaments, carving, and large lamps on each side of the entrance.

Like many buildings around here, the courthouse also has its share of haunted stories.  The seventh floor still has the ominous jail cells that once held prisoners and the eighth floor was where the condemned were hung. KTBS reporter Devon Patton took a tour in 2014 and filed this story:
One the eeriest places in the courthouse include the abandoned jail that sits on the 7th floor. Above the jail is the place where the hangman used to execute criminals. We found the latch where the floor would drop the person from the 8th floor to their death.
Interestingly, and perhaps Commissioner Epperson should read this, the article in the Louisiana Bar Association magazine notes the Confederate monument standing on the north side of the courthouse and the oddity that the land it stands on does not belong to the parish but to the Daughters of the Confederacy:
On the Texas Street side of the courthouse, a Confederate Veterans Reunion Monument honors those who died fighting for the Confederacy.Unbeknownst to many, this small tract of land within the perimeter of the courthouse property is actually private property owned by the Daughters of the Confederacy and not to the Parish.
As it has been noted many times, the small plot of land upon which the monument stands was donated to the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 along with a donation of $1,000 for the commission of the monument.  It is theirs for use in perpetuity.

As Commissioner Epperson has escalated his push for removal of the monument, a recent story by Gerry May of KTBS news indicates that this could create far more problems than Epperson may be willing to bear:
(Photo courtesy of Historic courthouse)
In a recent guest column in the Shreveport Times, Epperson wrote, "The Confederate monument is placed illegally on Caddo Parish's property and should be removed immediately by the owners." 
Epperson cites a title search that was done in 2002 to determine ownership of the courthouse land. While the title company wrote, "our records do not disclose a deed," it went on to say "acquisitive prescription would have long since prevailed over any flaw in the dedication of the subject tract." 
And what is "acquisitive prescription?" 
"It's a method of obtaining title to property by use and possession over a certain period of time," explains Caddo Parish Attorney Donna Frazier. It's something that goes back to frontier days. If you stayed on a piece of land for 30 years, you became owner.  
And to that, noted historian Gary Joiner says of the parish, "They're squatters."
The Caddo Parish courthouse opened in 1927 and while the metal detectors and the heavy security were never in Neild's plan, the beauty of his design remains.

Both inside and outside, the Caddo Parish courthouse is worth taking a moment to stop and admire.  And no nasty push by any politician with an agenda can spoil that!

If you like this post, please share it!  If you love this post, please hit the tip jar on the right sidebar!  Thanks for reading.

No comments: