Downtown Walking Tour

BEFORE RAILROAD TRACKS (Tour 1)

1. Gunby House (1705 N. 3rd St.)
This 1855 Greek Revival Style  house, which moved from Bry District,  illustrates the traits of this type of architecture. The house has a low pitch roof, full gallery, square columns, front door with narrow sidelights, and a transom. This house was owned by Andrew Augustus Gunby who was a judge for the Louisiana Court of Appeals from 1881 until 1892.

2. St. Matthew’s Cemetery (next to JS Clark) (1207 Washington St.)
Gergaud  was the pastor for St. Matthews’s Church from 1856-1873. He is buried in the cemetery he purchased for the church. Father Enaut is also buried in the cemetery. Not only was he the pastor of St. Matthews from 1873-1896, but he also founded the St. Francis Hospital in downtown Monroe in 1895. St. Francis opened  July 14, 1913.

3. Cemetery of Congregation B’nai Israel (180 Manassas St.)
This cemetery has been around since the Civil War. The earliest recorded burial was in 1861. Mayor Arnold Bernstein is buried in this cemetery. He was mayor of Monroe from 1918 to 1937. He died from a heart attack while in office. During his administration, the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo was founded, and the Monroe school system started with one school and increased to six! The Temple B’nai Israel and the Jewish Community of Monroe continue to use this cemetery as a burial ground.

4. Neat /nēt/ Mural (515 N. 3rd St.)
Pulling off a rugged dictionary street persona, this cool art piece is something you’ll have to see to believe. Located in the alley on the southern wall of Neat Bar & Night Club, this unconventional expression of art is unique and aesthetic. It’s a great place to take a selfie.

5. Tipitina’s (502 N. 2nd St.)
Tipitina’s began in 1977 in New Orleans by a group of music fans hoping to provide musicians with a local place to perform. The venue was named after pianist, composer and performer Professor Longair’s famous recording “Tipitina.” Now sponsoring musical Co-Ops throughout the state, Tipitina’s continues to provide up-and-coming artists with a place to perform, an involved audience, and the magic of music from New Orleans.

6. Warehouse No. 1 (1 Olive St.)
Warehouse No. 1 has been a warehouse for over 100 years, but what it has stored has changed over time. During the steamboat era, it held bales of cotton that were being transported down the Ouachita River from Arkansas down to New Orleans. Once the steamboat era ended and the railroad era started, the Warehouse was used to store wholesale groceries and hardware. Today, it is a casual fine dining restaurant in downtown that serves delicious Louisiana inspired dishes.

7. The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum (323 Walnut St.)
The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum is a hands-on learning place where parents and children alike can enjoy a fun-filled family experience. The museum hosts a variety of family-focused events throughout the year, along with birthday parties, school field trips, outreach programs and Santa’s Christmas Village. So, grab your kids and head to the BIG purple box of fun in downtown Monroe. Hours are Tuesdays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $6 per person for ages 1 and up. Group rates are available.

8. Chef Hans Mural (310 Walnut St.)
Chef Hans discovered Creole food on a vacation to New Orleans in the 1970s. He was so inspired by the food that he moved to West Monroe in 1979. He opened a restaurant in 1986. However, in 1990 he resigned from the restaurant and established Chef Han’s Gourmet Foods, Inc. in downtown Monroe. On the building a mural was painted on the side featuring Chef Hans that is sure to wow visitors and locals alike.

9. Postcard Mural (309 Walnut St.)
This is the Monroe portion of the postcard mural project; its match is in West Monroe. The paintings depict different scenes of Monroe and West Monroe. These wonderful works were created by ARROW Public Art and were completed in the summer of 2017.

10. Ouachita Coca-Cola Bottling & Candy Co. Mural (215 Walnut St.)
Joseph Biedenharn is well known in the South as the first person to bottle Coca-Cola, which was originally bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi in the summer of 1894, at his wholesale candy company. Biedenharn moved his manufacturing and bottling operations to Monroe in 1913. Though no longer in operation, locals and visitors can still see the faint words Wholesale Ouachita Candy Co. imprinted on the brick out front. You can find a stunning Coca-Cola mural located on the southern wall.

11. SQ’s (209 Walnut St.)
The Ouachita Riverhouse building was originally built as a meat packing facility circa 1915. It was first operated as the Swift Meat Packing company which is named for its founder Gustavus Franklin Swift. Swift invented the first rail car with refrigeration for shipment cross country. The building has since been used as warehousing and residential. In 2012, Matt Sanderson completely renovated the building for use as a restaurant, and he added an outside covered deck and a garden courtyard area. The bricks for the courtyard were salvaged from the Howard Griffin/Kokinos Ice Cream Factory fire. The old brick walls, original elevator, meat hanging hooks and wood floors remain in the building. The bar is made of beams salvaged from the mezzanine area of the building. The ring count showed these beams to be over 100 years old when they were placed in the building. That was more than 100 years ago making the bar over 200 years old. The building has been in continual use as a restaurant since 2012. It is one of the only restaurants in Monroe with panoramic views of downtown Monroe and of the Ouachita River.

12. Morning Star Sculpture (Corner of N. 3rd & DeSiard Sts.)
In the mid 1990s, this beautiful sculpture was added to downtown Monroe. It was created by Jack Lewis, a former Louisiana Tech University art professor. It is made of Brazilian marble, and the premise of the piece was to embody the rebirth of downtown.
 

AFTER RAILROAD TRACKS (Tour 2)

13. Southern Hardware (108 Walnut St.)
This Southern Hardware store has a history that belies its newer façade. The Marx family founded the company in 1889 across from what was then the original railway station (where the parking lot of the Monroe Chamber offices are). A couple years later, the store became the Sugar Opera House. In the 1920s, the movie theatre moved to the Paramount on DeSiard Street. Southern Hardware became well-known to locals and visitor as the corner of South Grand. This spot was famous for gambling and “red light” activities. Though no longer a brothel, the owners still have a couple of brothel coins as tokens. There are future plans to renovate this old hardware store into a hotel and event center.

14. Restaurant Cotton (101 N. Grand St.)
Now a popular restaurant serving some of the finest southern cuisine in the region. The J. S. Bloch Building (known as the old Ferd-Levi Building) was built in 1893. The Italianate building features the original corner entrance, arch fenestrations framing the second story windows, and elaborate cast-iron shop front. Though recently renovated, the interior still has the original cast iron Corinthian support columns and original window frames. It is little wonder the building was listed on the National Register in 1980. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 - 10 p.m. It’s also open on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. http://www.restaurantcotton.com

15. Austin’s by the River (100 S. Grand St.)
Also an 1890s Italianate commercial building, Austin’s by the River features a stuccoed rock face stone patterned with arches. The original windows were replaced with the stained glass ones present today. A popular special event center, Austin’s is capable of hosting weddings, receptions, parties, trade shows or business meetings. The attached courtyard provides a lovely backdrop for any  pictures. http://austins-by-the-river.com

16. Henry Bry Park (110 DeSiard St.)
Before the turn of the 19th century, the park was originally a store called General Merchandise and Cotton Buyer. It was owned by the Breard brothers and located on one of the busiest streets in downtown. Henry Bry Park offers a peaceful retreat from the everyday general hubbub of the city. It is the perfect place to sit and relax after walking throughout the city.

17. Old Monroe Hotel (223 S. Grand St.)
Built in 1900, this three-story Italianate stuccoed commercial building contains the same popular shallow window arches as its neighbors, but differs in its small central gable parapet located above the third door. Originally the Old Monroe Hotel, the building was bought by the Kidd family in 1978. It has now become a favorite downtown building known for its brightly colored doors and history.

18. Riverscape (223 S. Grand St.)
The Penn Hotel started off as an expansion to the Old Hotel Monroe in 1924.  It expanded the Old Monroe Hotel from 56 rooms to 240. Over the years, it was handed off to many other owners, but eventually became known was the Penn Hotel. Paul Kidd Sr. bought the hotel in 1978. After owning it for 20 years, the building was sold to the Ouachita Parish Police jury. It was used for storage until 2004 when Melody Olson bought the hotel. She renovated the hotel into the beautiful condos that are there today.

19. Ouachita Parish Courthouse (301 S. Grand St.)
This building was originally intended as the parish courthouse, but now houses the District Court Probation Office, Clerk of Court and Ouachita Parish Court Reporters as well as holding court Built in 1924, the four-story neo-classical structure features imposing columns and limestone facing. The wings were seamlessly added in 1950 while keeping the existing history in mind.

20. RiverWalk/RiverMarket (316 S. Grand St.)
Located in the middle of downtown and abutting the historic Ouachita River, the RiverWalk is the optimal place for spotting fish in the water, snapping iconic river pictures or taking an evening stroll with a significant other. Each of the six pavilions is named after local plantations.  For example, the Logtown Pavilion was named after the Filhiol’s country plantation. The RiverWalk is a great spot to sit and soak in the sunlight in this historic city. You will find a cute little community garden south of the RiverWalk. downtownrivermarket.com

21. Fort Miro Monument (beside the Origin Bank RiverWalk) (S. Grand St.)
Going back to the very roots of Monroe, Fort Miro was finished in February of 1791 with the sole purpose of protecting early settlers from the Choctaw, Ouachita and Natchez Indian attacks. Fort Miro was primarily used by women and children of the area since the men would have to travel several miles away to hunt and fish for the colony. Named Miro after one of the Spanish governors, the Fort was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The site of downtown Monroe is more-or-less the location of the old Fort.

22. Jack Hayes Memorial Monument (beside RiverWalk) (S. Grand St.)
Jack Hayes was known by many as a strict educator who wanted to see his students succeed in academics and life. He was an early principal of Ouachita High School and later served as its superintendent. When he died in 1961, his beloved students decided to work together and build a memorial across the street from the school, so he could continue to watch over the students.

23. Ouachita Grand Plaza (501 S. Grand St.)
Located across from the RiverWalk and Ouachita River, the Ouachita Grand Plaza is a historical 1924 building unique with its Jacobean brick style and cement trim. Once the home of Ouachita Parish High School, it has expansive windows, breathtaking views, soaring ceilings and hallways lined with antiques showcasing the Plaza’s historic past. Now converted into a retirement home, residents and guests can enjoy the beautifully landscaped gardens and an enclosed courtyard in addition to the stunning architecture.

24. Arrow Public Art (520 S. Grand St.)
Though it has no notable architectural or engineering features, this one story brick building was built in 1840 as the Isaiah Garrett  Law Office. It has survived countless floods, fires, hurricanes, ice storms and neglect. It is now home to Arrow Public Art.

25. Anna Gray Noe Park (251 Oak St.)
Located in the heart of downtown, this beautiful park was named after Anna Gray Noe, once the first lady of Louisiana and wife of former Governor James A. Noe. Dedicated to Mrs. Noe because of her work on local beautification projects and participation in the garden club, the park is an accurate representation of her love for nature and earthly beauty.  It was the former site of the Monroe City High School.

26. First Baptist Church (201 St. John St.)
First Baptist Church was built in 1911. The handsome two-story church is a neo-Palladian style building with the original octagonal dome, columns and pediments.

27. Vantage State Building (122 St. John St.)
Built in 1925, the Virginia Hotel boasted three ballrooms, including one on the roof. Guests enjoyed dancing under the stars to the sounds of the big bands of the day.   Social events, such as proms, wedding receptions and conventions were all held there.  A popular destination on Sunday afternoons, the hotel dining room was often full.  The ground floor was home to a variety of retail and service establishments including a coffee shop, barbershop, beauty shop, cigar stand, bar and drug store.  In the late 1960s the State purchased the then closed hotel to serve as the local State Office Facility.  The building is now the home of Vantage Health Plan and was totally restored in 2016.  It is now called the Vantage State Building.

28. Ouachita National Bank
The Original Ouachita National Bank opened in 1906 and continued printing money up until its closing in 1933. During those 27 years—a normal lifespan for a national bank—the Ouachita National Bank issued six different types of national currency and moved location three times.

a. 1906 (112 St. John St.)
This beautiful neo-classical limestone temple was the site for the original Ouachita National Bank in 1906. The building now is home to Saint John Pharmacy. 

b. 1920 (130 DeSiard St.)
In 1920, the Ouachita National Bank moved to this location, which is now home to Vantage Health Plan, Inc. The eleven-story brick and limestone building has the words Ouachita National Bank inscribed above the second story and has colossal Doric pilasters on the top and bottom floors.

c. 1925 (141 DeSiard St.)
The bank moved for a third time in 1925 to this eight story Chicago style brick office building. Now it is home to the 141 Lofts.

29. 141 Lofts (141 DeSiard St.)
Built in 1925, this eight-story brick building has a low-key Chicago style that is apparent even to the untrained eye and features beautiful molding at the top of the building. In 1975, the building went through an extensive renovation. Now used as an apartment building, the apartments feature Energy Star black appliances, granite counter tops, a washer & dryer in each unit, linen closets and a pantry. Not only do the apartments have individual amenities, but they offer community amenities such as: a fitness center, business center, clubroom with kitchen, swimming pool and playground.

30. The Palace (220 DeSiard St.)
In 1924, the six floor Palace Department store was built. For over 50 years, it brought customers from all over Northeast Louisiana to shop for anything they needed. Portico Church bought the Palace in 2009 for the purpose of giving back to downtown and bringing life back to the grand building.

31. Central Bank and Trust Building (300 DeSiard St.)
This building was completed in 1925. In 1927, Delta Airlines was created in the bank’s boardroom. Since the establishment of Delta Airlines, the annual stockholders meetings were held in the “Delta board room” until July, 1999. Because of the influence of Delta Airlines, the table in the boardroom was made to resemble an airplane wing. In 2009, Vantage Health Plan bought the building and restored it.

32. Frances Tower (300 Harrison St.)
This gorgeous, eleven-story modernistic skyscraper was built in 1934. Hotel Frances, as it was then known, was designed as a terra-cotta Modernistic building with vertical shafts between the windows, roof finials, and an elaborate two-stage water tower on the roof. Converted into a living center for senior citizens, the Tower features a lobby that transports one back to the 1930s.

33. St. Matthew’s Catholic Church & Rectory (121 Jackson St.)
St. Matthew’s was founded in 1851 in a small community. The town struggled for a small period of time before growing in the late 19th century. In 1897, the construction of the church began on one of the oldest churches in Monroe. With a large frontal tower that echoes those in Europe and a mid-Victorian gothic revival feel, this beautiful Catholic Church is unique to Monroe. The church is befittingly famous for its dramatic arched ceilings hand painted by Glen Kennedy and dubbed The Blue Heavens. Come and see this downtown gem with painted ceilings, unique woodwork and stunning stained glass windows. 

Mass held: Tuesday through Friday: 7 a.m. Saturday: 4 p.m. Sunday: 8 a.m.stmatthewofmonroe.com

34. United States Courthouse & Post Office (201 Jackson St.)
This United States Courthouse and Post Office was built in 1932. The three-story Modernistic building houses a post office on the ground floor, marble facing, fluted window slits, and decorative teas relief located between the windows on the first and second floors.

35. Mural on 428 DeSiard (428 DeSiard St.)
Based off an original painting by local artist Nicholas Bustamante titled Finding Home, the mural explores the beauty of Louisiana by referencing images of Louisiana. Specifically, it references images of Black Bayou and celebrates the rich culture of the region.


 

SOUTH OF DOWNTOWN (Tour 3)

36. Cooley House (1011 S. Grand St.)
During the late 19th and early 20th century, Prairie School architecture was all the rage. With roots leading back to Chicago, it became a common style found all throughout the Midwest. The Cooley House was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Walter Burley Griffin in 1908, but wasn’t built until 1925. One of the last surviving examples of Prairie School architecture in the south, the Cooley House is Griffin’s last structure to be completed in the United States. The house features the horizontal lines, hipped roof and windows assembled in horizontal bands that deem it a Prairie School. Now a museum, visitors can see the original central vacuum system, central steam heating, incinerator, steam shower, sunken tub and cork flooring the house was designed with in 1908. http://www.cooleyhouse.org/history.php

37. Layton Castle (1133 S. Grand St.)
Originally built in 1814 as a two-story plantation home by Judge Henry Bry, the façade underwent a dramatic change in 1910. The house was expanded in the late 19th century by Bry’s daughter Melinda and her husband Robert Layton. It wasn’t until 1910 when their son’s widow—after spending several years in Europe—began the extensive makeover that is visible today. Inspired by European architecture, Eugenia designed a red tile roof, two-story-high arches and the stunning round tower at the corner of the building. Though the ground floor is now divided into apartments, this unconventional castle can be reserved for group tours, weddings and special events.

38. Masur Museum (1400 S. Grand St.)
This Tudor style estate was built in 1929 by Clarence Edward Slagle for his wife Mabel. Acquired by the Masur family in the 1930s, the house was inhabited until the early 60’s. The Masur children donated the house to the City of Monroe with the intention of it becoming a fine art museum. With the help of the city and the Twin City Art Foundation, the home became the Masur Museum of Art. The Museum features dozens of artists from all over the country working with different mediums and styles. Its hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 12 - 5 p.m. http://www.masurmuseum.org/

39. Thomas Leigh House (1401 S. Grand St.)
This Bungalow Style house was built in 1940. The style traits feature group windows, an asymmetrical front with various wings and no porch.

40. Bancroft House (1200 St. John Dr.)
Built by Toby Bancroft in 1927, this Neoclassical style house features grand classical columns, a majestic full height porch, symmetrical windows, and the original arch, which is called a curved transom, above the front door.

41. Herbert Land, Sr. House (1204 St. John Dr.)
This unusual house is beautiful, if not out of place in the South. Built in 1927, this home has all the characteristics of a Spanish Eclectic building such as a low pitched roof with traditional red tiles, asymmetrical stucco façade, arched wall, and a balcony that doubles as a door cover.

42. Julia Wossman House (1205 St. John Dr.)
One of the oldest homes in the neighborhood, with the exception of Layton Castle, the Julia Wossman house is circa 1890. It’s a Queen Anne style, with traits including an irregular shaped roof, bracket trim on the half porch and cutaway bay windows.

43. Governor Luther Hall House (1515 Jackson St.)
Designed by one of Monroe’s most outstanding architects, William Drago, the Hall House was built in 1906 for Luther E. Hall and his family. The family lived there until 1912, when Hall was elected Governor of Louisiana. Featuring aspects of Georgian Revival, Beaux Arts Classicism and Queen Anne detail; the two-story home is a mishmash of design that makes it unique. The home was entered into the National Register of Historic places in 1979, and a full restoration was completed in 1994. The house is now home to The Wellspring, a non-profit organization centered on strengthening and valuing individuals and families through professional services and community leadership with compassion and integrity.

 

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