Historic Walking Tour

Historic Walking Tour

Before the Tracks – Tour one

1. The Gunby House – 1705 No. 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.

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.

2. St. Mathew’s Cemetery – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

10. Ouachita Coca-Cola Bottling and Candy Co. Mural

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.

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 (Tour2)

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.