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The Masonic Temple. (Special to the American Press)

The Masonic Temple. (Special to the American Press)

Historical society calls for action on endangered sites

Last Modified: Saturday, February 02, 2013 9:48 PM

By Johanthan Manning / American Press

The Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River is back on the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society’s annual list of endangered structures throughout the area.

Not only is it endangered, but its future affects a large number of people, a spokesman for the group said.

It is joined on the list by its sister bridge on I-210.

“That’s our link between east and west Calcasieu, which, if you add their ages together, are 111 years old,” preservationist Adley Cormier said.

“If they failed tomorrow, it would be the sort of disaster that affects life and limb. That makes a huge difference not just to preservationists, but to the entire economy and to people who might be on the bridge when they fail. It’s not likely that that will happen, but up in Minnesota they didn’t think it was likely when the I-35 bridge went kaput.”

The I-10 bridge was completed in 1952, and the I-210 bridge was completed in 1963.

“We’re concerned that these are the ones that you see every day and you sort of take for granted,” Cormier said.

The 11 structures or sites identified by the group were picked “to put into the public’s view thoughtful reasons why they’re important,” Cormier said. “The idea is not to chastise the owners or to shame them. We try to tell (the public) a little bit of the history of the building or a history of the site or artifact and why it’s important and how it’s endangered.”

The list includes the downtown YMCA, Sacred Heart-St. Katharine Drexel School, Bilbo Cemetery, the Masonic Temple and the Sabine Pass Lighthouse.

Published by the society for the past 16 years, the list mirrors the 11 endangered sites highlighted each year by the National Trust.

“The danger is not just from a building coming down with a whacking ball, but also from insidious things like termites or pollution or bad weather,” Cormier said.

The site groups together many individual residential properties throughout the Charlestown Cultural District — many of which were constructed with wood.

“Wood, if it’s not properly maintained, does not last eternally, although there are 1,200-year-old wood buildings in Europe and Asia,” Cormier said. “We don’t quite have that track record down here when we’re fighting termites and 70 inches of rain.”

The list also includes ideas and recommendations of what could be done with the buildings.

For instance, about the Berdon-Campbell Building, the list says, “could be renovated into suitable professional offices, a boutique hotel, a restaurant with apartments,” while also stressing that “a developer could take advantage of both state and federal tax credits for suitable renovation.”

Cormier said the group includes the suggestions to “try to add, if we can, some way to get the ball rolling, either by providing a new use for the building or providing a different use for the building or suggesting what could be done with it to turn it around.”

“A lot of buildings that are now being used, that are successful, that you point out to visitors of Lake Charles ... those buildings, we played a tiny part in getting the public to see them with new eyes,” Cormier said.

Renovations of historic sites and buildings around the area have been completed with both private and public funds, he said.

While most of the sites are within Calcasieu Parish, the Sabine Pass Lighthouse is included because Calcasieu once encompassed its location.

“While many of the artifacts and the documents of the lighthouse are physically located in various Southeast Texas museums, the actual structure is firmly in and of Louisiana,” the list states. “The people of Calcasieu Parish should support efforts to save this lighthouse.”

The group encourages owners or overseers to have some sites reviewed for the National Register: Gerstner Field, Bilbo Cemetery, and the I-10 and I-210 bridges.

Cormier lists Lake Charles’ old courthouse, Central School and the Transit Center as sites that were on the list but have since been repurposed into useful venues.


Posted By: Andrew On: 2/3/2013


I really don't see how a bridge like that is historic at this point. It's old, dilapidated, and should be torn down after a new one is built.

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