FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2016
Contact: Kelli West
Alexandria’s historic Garden District features five homes during tour
Alexandria, LA – Alexandria’s Garden District Neighborhood Foundation, the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission, and the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau have teamed together again to present a Holiday Tour of Homes on Saturday, December 10, 2016, from 4:00-8:00 p.m.
Five homes will be open for the tour in the historic Garden District, each with individual history and architectural character. Tour participants begin their tour at the First United Methodist Church, located on Jackson Street, where they can park their car, pick up tickets, and hop on the “Spirit of Alexandria” trolleys. Tickets are $25 and are available for purchase online at www.GardenDistrictNeighborhood.org or in person at Southern Chic and Main Dish & More in Alexandria.
Featured homes include the Eskew-Downs-Holcombe House at 402 Hillcrest, the Haas-Watts House at 1324 Bush Avenue, the Wallace-Randall House at 2225 Jackson Street, the Ferguson-Nowlin House at 1920 Polk Street, and the Barber-Williford House at 2522 Marye Street.
402 Hillcrest Drive / Eskew-Downs-Holcombe Estate
This eclectic home in the Colonial Revival style, distinguished by a Dutch gambrel roof on the front entry wing and dormer windows on the side wings, has changed little since its construction in 1941. It was one of the first houses in the Avenues neighborhood, and was built for Laura Eskew Downs, by her father, John C. Eskew, owner of John Eskew Motor Co. She lived there with her husband, the late Louisiana politician, C. H. “Sammy” Downs in the 1970s and 1980s. The classic interior provides the setting for the Holcombes’ vast and vibrant collection of artwork, including pieces by the homeowners, and furniture produced by famed local craftsman, Glen Armand.
2522 Marye Street / Barber-Williford Bungalow
The house at 2522 Marye is a quaint Craftsman style cottage which was built between 1928 and 1929 for Mrs. Hattie French, widow of John French. Rupert T. Barber and his wife Nora moved into the house in 1931. Mr. Barber worked as a bookkeeper for a machinist in 1931, eventually serving as Vice President of the new Rapides Bank and Trust at 4th and Murray by 1960. The home was renovated in the 1950s with the addition of bedrooms in the front and rear of the house. After living here for nearly 60 years, Mr. Barber sold the house in the late 1980s. The Willfords have revived the home with a sense of family and creativity as they continue work on the interior, recently exposing beautiful wood sheathing in the living room. Heather Williford founded and manages the Garden District Neighborhood Foundation’s “Run GDN” group.
2225 Jackson Street / Wallace-Randall Estate
2016 marks the 100th birthday of this remarkable Neoclassical center-hall residence, built in 1916 for Robert Bruce Wallace, Sr., a physician, and his New Orleans bride, Dorothy James, who insisted on hiring a New Orleans architect to design their house. They built here when Chester Street marked the end of residential development along Jackson Street, “beyond the pig trail.” It is a treasure trove of original interior architectural elements, also featuring a 1950s rear addition completed to house Robert Bruce Wallace, Jr.’s family when they moved into the home, and three separate living areas. The Randalls have put in a great deal of elbow grease in rehabilitating the home and suiting it to modern needs, while maintaining its historic integrity. The interior also attests to their impeccable eye for design.
1920 Polk Street / Ferguson-Nowlin House
An example of Folk Victorian residential architecture, this circa 1910 home is more spacious than it appears. The structure was originally located at 808 16th Street in the West End Historic District and was moved to its current location, previously the site of the McLure house. Its original owner was Thaddeus A. Carter, a respected attorney. Mr. Carter moved around the corner to 1546 Jackson Street by 1914, at which time James and Ella Ferguson moved into the home. James Ferguson served as a Captain in the U.S. Navy and continued to work as a master pilot of river steamboats and marine engineer for the U.S. Government. After Mr. Ferguson passed away in 1951, his wife and son lived there until it was vacated in 1983. Peregrine Drafting and Design then operated out of the building from 1986 to 1995. Local preservationist Paul Smith moved the home to the lot on Polk Street and rehabbed it between 2004 and 2005. The current owners, Matt and Allie Nowlin, are both local attorneys whose families have had well-known local and regional restaurants. Matt’s family owned “Just Friends” in Natchitoches and Allie’s family had the famous local restaurant “Herbert K’s.” Their home is filled with beautiful antiques and family heirlooms.
1324 Bush Avenue / Haas-Watts House
A late example of the Tudor Revival style, characterized by three steeply pitched gables, tall, narrow multi-pane casement windows, and round arched wood plank front door, this home, built by Albert Maurice Haas and his wife Florence Schwartzberg Haas, dates to 1942. Albert came to Alexandria in 1929 and began managing Ames department store, which sold “Ladies Ready to Wear” clothing at 1025 3rd Street. He also served in World War I and was once the president of the local B’Nai Brith congregation. Florence continued to live here after the death of her husband in 1944, managing Ames in the place of her husband. She also served as treasurer for her family’s department store, Schwartzberg’s. It retains original features, including nine-foot ceilings, trim, doors, hardware, wood flooring, built-in shelving, cedar-lined closets – and even a telephone nook! Derik Watts, the current owner, has also added his personal touches to the home, including a faux-marble fireplace and carefully landscaped yard.
In addition to the homes on tour, the Bottle House, located at 1706 Polk Street, will be open during the tour. This unique structure, one of only a handful in the United States, was built entirely of glass bottles circa 1945. Drew Bridges constructed the bottle house in the backyard of his two-story home at 1703 Polk, using over 3,000 bottles he saved from his drugstore located around the corner at 1128 Bolton. The Bottle House originally housed a gift shop. Later, it was the scene of many social gatherings. It continues to be used for this purpose today. The American Foursquare home at 1703 Polk was built circa 1915 and has seen only four owners through its one hundred year history. It is currently owned by Damon and LaDonna Bernard, who have worked diligently to restore both the interior and exterior of the home. For more information or a complete list of Holiday events, visit www.AlexandriaPinevilleLa.com/holiday or call (800) 551-9546.
The Garden District Neighborhood Foundation is a neighborhood group comprised of residents, merchants, and other supporters who are committed to connecting, celebrating, and caring for the historic heart of Alexandria. The Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission (AHPC) is the City of Alexandria’s agency for historic preservation efforts, encouraging the preservation of historic structures within Alexandria’s three local historic districts and two National Register Historic Districts. AHPC believes that the preservation of our built environment enhances historic neighborhoods and fosters community spirit, improves and stabilizes property values, encourages tourism, and benefits the economy.
The Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is a proud partner in Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights program with Shreveport-Bossier City, Natchitoches, Minden and Monroe-West Monroe, La. For more information about the Holiday Trail of Lights, visit online at www.holidaytrailoflights.com.