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The J.A. Bel Home. (Special to the American Press)

The J.A. Bel Home. (Special to the American Press)

Informer: One-time clubhouse now part of youth home

Last Modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 1:24 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

In the 75 Years Ago part of the Our Past column there is at times some group meeting at the Bel community building. Can you tell me where that building was located?

Sure can.

The building, known as the J.A. Bel home, stood at 527 Mill St., on the northwest corner of the intersection of Mill and Moss streets. It no longer exists.

The home was built in the late 19th century by Dr. A.H. Moss, who acquired the land after its previous owner, Judge D.J. Reid died.

When Moss moved to Texas, the house was bought by John Albert Bel, who was married to Della Moeling Goos, one of the children of local pioneer and lumber magnate Capt. Daniel Goos.

Bel himself became a giant in the lumber business, and the house — originally a two-story Victorian topped with a cupola — was eventually expanded into a grand Southern mansion.

Bel died in the house on Dec. 30, 1918, about two weeks after his son, Ernest, had died of pneumonia. Della lived another 15 years, dying in the early-morning hours of May 7, 1934.

After her death the Bel family granted use of the house to the city for 20 years “for and in consideration of the interest which the Bel heirs have for the common welfare of the inhabitants of Lake Charles,” according to an American Press story printed Jan. 2, 1936.

“No money consideration was involved in the donation. However, the city is required to carry fire and tornado insurance on the property and it is stipulated that no part of the property may be used for gambling, drinking or immoral purposes. ...,” the story reads.

“Further, the ‘east bedroom,’ the bedroom of the late Mrs. Bel (Aunt Della) must ‘never be used for sleeping quarters.’ ”

The house was placed under the supervision of the Enterprise Club and was used by it and several other women’s clubs — the Garden Club, the Junior Welfare League, the Medical Auxiliary, United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

It later served as a voting precinct and housed the local American Red Cross headquarters.

Mayor Tom Price, citing increasing maintenance costs, sought an end to the city’s lease arrangement in 1946, and the Bel family took control of the house the following year.

When the reactivation of Chennault Air Base forced Boys Village — opened there in 1947 — to seek a new home, the Bel family offered the youth program’s organizers the house at 527 Mill.

The house was dismantled in 1951 — by Boys Village residents and community members — and was reconstructed on a newly acquired 40-acre tract of land on U.S. 90 east of Lake Charles.

The house, which served as the program’s administration building, was destroyed by a fire in November 2010.

Online: http://libguides.mcneese.edu/archives.

• • •

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

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