The home of Wendell and Nancy Fontenot
In 1935, G. W. and Ruth Holleyman decided to build a house on the west end of Shell Beach Drive on the waterfront. The property was purchased in 1933 from Mrs. Hubert Foster and Rudolph Krause, according to a history by A.C. Boudier. Boudier is the past landmark chairman for the Calcasieu Preservation Historical Society. Pati Threat, Frazier Memorial Library Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at McNeese, provided the history.
Holleyman was a Gulf Oil land man, according Boudier. Mrs. Holleyman did advertising for the Muller Company.
The Holleyman name appears throughout the Society Pages of the American Press archives. The couple was active in church, civic clubs and other organizations, and they often hosted meetings in their home. Brides to be were feted at the Shell Beach Drive address. The Holleymans treated various groups to lake outings aboard the BoWalkaRu (a combination of family names).
They raised award-winning irises and orchids. Both competed in fishing rodeos – and won. She garnered local and state recognition for her photography. (Some of these framed black-and-white prints still hang in the home.)
The Lake Area social scene has changed significantly since members of the First Methodist Choir and their families picnicked on the Holleyman’s lawn. Lake Charles has grown. There is more traffic than ever. However, “Lake Haven” –the name the Holleymans gave their Shell Beach one-and-a-half-story red brick house with white trim – still suits the perfectly preserved property today.
The atmosphere inside and outside the house is tranquil. The view from the family room is mesmerizing and the place seems to have retained the character and charm of simpler times.
This is due to its situation at the less-traveled end of Shell Beach Drive, the obvious love and maintenance since its construction and the ongoing attention afforded its preservation.
Making the house even more distinctive is the fact that it has remained in the family all these years. It is home to Wendell and Nancy Holleyman Fontenot, a couple who offer a welcoming hospitality that is as serene and relaxed as the setting in which they live. Nancy is the granddaughter of G. W. Holleyman and the daughter of R.W. Holleyman.
The Fontenots are not crazy about being the focus of a feature story. However, because they value Lake Haven as home and as a historical landmark, they opened the doors to the American Press.
Nancy considers her style eclectic. She displays – and uses – some of the home’s original, traditional furnishings and décor. On the mantle in the family room is a painting of the home by the late E. J. Olivier. Next to it is a bobcat trophy. The pairing of these two items, and nothing else, on the white mantle is striking and simple.
Over the living room fireplace is a large wall hanging created by Nancy’s grandmother, Ruth, in the late 60s. It’s an arrangement of costume jewelry and embroidery that resembles a Christmas tree and was probably an easy project for Ruth, who, in 1940, was the first of a group of 57 women to complete a garment during a war relief effort. (Rosa Hart came in second.)
It’s one of Nancy’s favorite things in the house and helps add a bit of whimsy to the mostly traditional furnishings.
They both like having a place for everything and everything in its place. Nothing is overdone in the house.
Boudier wrote in his history that G.W. Holleyman did not like a lot of ornamentation.
Wendell Fontenot enjoys hunting and fishing. The bobcat and other hunting trophies are found in the family room and in the home’s office. He brags – without apology – on his wife’s cooking.
When asked what makes their house a home, they look at each other, the look of a couple that’s been together so long, they know what the other is thinking.
She says, “This home, it’s just always been a part of us.”
He mentions the significance of living in a home that’s part of the area’s history and their role in helping preserve that history.
Both agree. Living in Lake Haven is an absolute pleasure.
A simple stairway leads to the upstairs. Mr. Holleyman did not like a lot of ornamentation. All closets are lighted and have the original fixtures. The house was coled with a chilled water system that pulled water from the lake. Although this was a centrally cooled unit, he usually turned the system off and opened the windows for the “fresh air feel.” – A.C. Boudier
The best seats in the house are also some of the oldest. Find them in the family room where there is a wall of glass that looks onto the beautiful view of the lake.
Though this is not the place it was originally installed, this is the home’s first phone.
Special to the American Press