When the Lampsons entertain, most guest gravitate to the game room where the Foosball table is a favorite with young and old alike. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 12:12 PMGene and Shively Lampson weren’t looking for a house when they saw the “for sale” sign. But it was Gene’s favorite in Lake Charles, the E.E. Richards historic home, at 1501 Shell Beach Drive.
“We lived on Lake Prien and had just completed a big renovation. We had no interest in moving,” Shively said. The family was on its way to a local Mexican restaurant. “We would always go down this road,” Gene said, gesturing out the many windows of the sunroom to Shell Beach Drive and the lake.
Curiosity more than anything drove the couple to schedule an appointment to see the interior. “Three weeks later we had sold our home and bought this one,” Shively said. That was 25 years ago.
According to Shively, it was this same kind of happenstance that brought them to Lake Charles the summer of 1974.
Natives of Beaumont, they were living in Dallas. Gene was completing his radiology residency and Shively was perfecting the nuances of French cuisine under the instruction of the iconic Julia Child. Traveling through the area on their way to Crowley for a family member’s birthday party, they decided to drive around and take a closer look.
“We just thought the lake looked so beautiful,” Shively said. The drive took them to St. Patrick’s Hospital where Gene got out and went in to look around. Dr. Elwyn Cavin, a well-known radiologist, told him that St. Patrick’s didn’t need a radiologist but Memorial Hospital might. Memorial did — and Lake Charles became home to the Lampsons.
They purchased the house from Evelyn Woosley. According to a 2010 American Press article about the landmark home, it was the Woosley family who “enclosed the west porch and added a library, den, patio, carport and pool.”
Local playwright Carolyn Woosley, the oldest of Evelyn and Terrell Woosley’s children, lived in the house from 1954 through 1967. One of her favorite childhood memories of living on Shell Beach Drive was of the grounds. “I was always in a tree or under water somewhere,” she said. During inclement winter weather, she practiced her basketball dribbling in the high-ceilinged dining room.
She and her friends designed their own massive version of Sherwood Forest that included 17 hiding places, and they would stage mini dramas as drivers toured the Burton grounds (nextdoor) that featured thousands of azaleas and camellias.
Woosley had hiding places inside the house, too, where she and her sister, Mary, would hide hair curlers “much to the great chagrin and frustration” of the sitter responsible for making sure that they followed the dictates of their mother.
The house that Woosley describes as a “Hatian cottage built to withstand high wind and high water” stood empty for around 20 years before her family moved in. Her first view of the place was an image she remembers vividly. “There were knives stuck in the banister. That made quite an impression on a 5-year-old,” she said.
According to the Lampsons, Edward Elias Richards built the house in the early 1900s and called it “Lakeview” because the lake could be viewed from every room. He is also credited with building the first gasoline-powered yacht in Lake Charles. It was constructed on the property at the same time as the house was going up.
Initially Richards’ house design was only one story with a parlor, gallery, three bedrooms, dining room and kitchen. The second floor was added later and the look of the home was redesigned to resemble Richards’ favorite beach house in Biloxi.
The Lampsons said they haven’t changed much in the house since they bought it in the late ‘80s. Traditional décor and antiques in many of the rooms highlight, rather than hide, the outstanding features of the home. The house is much larger than it appears from the road with 5,800 square feet of living space and 7,400 square feet under roof.
The gallery seems to go on and on, finally concluding at the rear of the house at the butler’s pantry. Walls that soar to the 14-foot ceiling are papered with “Hermitage,” a pattern reproduced from the Andrew Jackson Hermitage Home.
To the left, the gallery opens to the parlor and sunroom. To the right is a cozy office with spare furnishings and a French provincial desk. Of note in a curio corner cabinet, oil field worker keepsakes share space with medical keepsakes. “I worked in the oil field for a while,” Gene said. He was also an electrical engineer.
The Lampsons use large area rugs in a deep red hue, but said that putting down rugs was a hard choice to make because they didn’t want to cover up the beautiful wood floors. “Our children were disappointed too,” Shively said. “They liked running and sliding in their socks.” Each room is laid with a unique pattern. Richards was a lumber baron and “had a passion for wood,” Shively said. The floor, made of yellow pine logged over 100 years ago, is polished to a gleaming shine.
On the day of the interview, the weather was frigid. The sky and water were varying shades of grayish blue. The wind was whipping the water into white ripples. “It’s a different view every day,” Shively said. That’s part of what makes it Gene’s favorite. “He reads in here every morning.”
The dining room glitters when the light bounces off the large crystal chandelier and Queen Ann table, which comfortably seats 10. The wallpaper is Les Sylphides, French block-printed arabesque reproduction, circa 1875.
The game room with its small bar nook is where visitors tend to gravitate when the Lampsons entertain. There is plenty of room to mill around the pool table and long banks of window seats accommodate groups. Gene said young and old alike are drawn to the Foosball table, added by the Lampsons while their children — Emily, Daniel, Thomas and Shively — were growing up.
In one of the front bedrooms, cherished keepsakes have found a comfortable resting place. Family photos from various generations line the mantle. A stuffed black sheep and frog silently share tea. A baby doll sleeps sweetly in its cradle. Two dolls wait in their carriage. These are not priceless antiques, but rather the playthings of real children, the Lampson girls. The hair of the dolls has been cut, a reminder of how this often happens among girls with scissors, dolls and time at hand.
There are five fireplaces in the home, two of these are wood burning and each one has a unique trim and mantle design. To the rear of the grounds is a quaint guest cottage where the Lampsons lived while the home was being painted and updated.
Nearby is a small garden, blueberry bushes, and several fruit trees: satsuma, kumquat, grapefruit, persimmon, lemon, lime, fig and three orange. Gene picked 600 oranges from one of these trees this season. “It took him three days to get them juiced,” Shively said.
He preserves figs using a xylitol product. The Lampsons also have their own honey-producing beehive. The cottage out back doubles as a cooking school of sorts.
When future generations talk about people who lived in this historical Shell Beach Drive house, the Lampsons will be remembered as the host and hostess who served the healthy cuisine.
“Gene and I have always been interested in entertaining family and friends, and spent time in the kitchen together doing so, but we haven’t always prepared the healthiest of meals,” she said.
Her passion for food and teaching led her to teaching children the origin of foods so that they would know that the packaged and canned foods stores did not just “appear” on the grocery store shelves. They used a flour mill to grind wheat berries, made pasta with a pasta machine and used a tortilla press to make corn tortillas, among other things. Gene would teach adults how to make Italian sausage. “Little did we know these food preparations were taking us down a destructive path,” she said.
It was after Gene’s bypass 19 years ago when they began to search for heart-healthy meals. Shively pursued an education in nutrition.
Today they eat lots of raw and lightly cooked vegetarian meals, no dairy and animal products. “We do have fish and hormone-free poultry occasionally,” she said.
Their youngest daughter is currently in Hawaii living and working at an organic farm.
To Shively, preparing food is an art.
In her kitchen, it’s no surprise that the food constitutes art. In three areas she’s filled glass containers of different heights with items purchased in bulk. Some are filled with recognizable beans, nuts and dried fruits. Others the unfamiliar which she says are chia seeds and thin bars of seaweed that they use to flavor and add nutrients to dry beans.
“Chia seeds were consumed by ancient Aztec warriors to give them the energy they needed,” Shively said. The Lampsons sprinkle seeds on prepared dishes like pintos and brown rice. “We put them on everything except our toothpaste,” she joked.
Overhead are framed Gourmet magazine covers that date back to the ‘70s. “In the past I hosted these dinner parties and served these horrible dishes, horrible because they were filled with butter,” she said.
When she made the transition to “eating healthier,” she retired the Gourmet magazine recipes and decided to frame the covers.
Two floor-to-ceiling shelves hold cookbooks. Within an arm’s reach are the natural foods cookbooks. Her favorites are “The Conscious Cook,” “Forks Over Knives” and “Raw Food Real World.” Shively put her old favorites up high, but she just couldn’t bear to part with them. “One of my friends calls me a born-again cook and warns me of possible blacksliding,” she joked.
To get an idea of what that would involve, consider the following dinner party menus, past and present.
Creamy tomato basil soup (using butter and heavy cream)
Beef tenderloin with cream sauce
Cheese-stuffed zucchini with béchamel sauce
Chocolate-glaze triple layer cheesecake (using white sugar, butter, cream cheese and sour cream)
Raw tomato basil soup (see sidebar for recipe)
Caesar salad with focaccia croutons (egg- and dairy-free)
Stuffed yellow bell pepper with marinara
Dark chocolate ganache tart (sweetened with agave and maple syrup with vanilla cream made with cashews)
Though it isn’t everyone who shares meals and entertains in a landmark home beneath a sparkling crystal chandelier surrounded by reproduction Les Sylphides wallpaper, for many of us, memories of home are associated with food — fast, French, fresh and natural, or anything else in between.
Expressing our appreciation of and caring for others by preparing food is just another way that we, like the Lampsons, make our houses into homes.