As part of the 30th Annual Preservation Conference, the Historical Association of Central Louisiana organized a Louisiana Trust 10 Most Endangered List Tour yesterday. Even though I had a part in organizing the tour, I had yet to see the inside of half of the buildings on the tour.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing, for the first time, the lobby of the now closed Hotel Bentley. I know a lot about the Bentley, but I had not yet had the opportunity to see the inside before its doors closed in 2005. For a complete history on the Bentley, please click here. Everything said about the Bentley is true. It is oppulent, beautiful, a classic example of early 20th century architecture and definitely worth saving. Upon entering the lobby, straight ahead is a beautiful double staircase which meets at a landing and then grandly sweeps down to the floor.
A few of the persons joining us for the tour reminisced about being present at family weddings, proms and other events held here in the “good ole days”. Their descriptions of the events transported me back and I could almost hear feet shuffling in time with music from the band, or the crisp whoosh of a wedding dress as a beautiful bride gracefully descended the stairs. How exciting it must have been!
Gazing up at the inside of the dome, you will see a painted mural. This is not original to the structure. Originally a frieze type pattern decorated the inside of the dome and in the 1930’s-40’s, it was “modernized” by painting white over it with a black edge. After renovating the Bentley in the 1980’s, the Tudor Construction company hired an artisan to paint this mural. (This information comes from the book “An Illustrated History: Rapides Parish” published by local author Sue Eakin).
Alas, not all of the Bentley is a beautiful sight. Signs of peeling paint, wear and tear and rot are already being seen due to the hotel being defunct for four years. Below is just a small glimpse of the wood damage outside the hotel.
However, now that I am Central Louisianan….I will cling to the faith that other Central Louisianans have that this once glorious building will be returned to commerce and that it will lift its head proudly in our downtown once again.
The other buildings we toured were Mt. Olivet chapel, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Conerly House, the Thompson-Hargis mansion and the Cotton Bros. Bakery Building. Bennettville Plantation house and store were listed on the Louisiana Trust’s 10 Most Endangered list, however it was not open for tour. The Town Talk did a wonderful story on the tour and you can view that by clicking here. Don’t forget to look at the photo gallery to see more pictures of the tour. Thank you RT Morgan for a wonderful story.
I would also like to thank TW Thompson for the wondeful picture of my daughter and I walking in the Hotel Bentley lobby. I took a walk with Vivian because she was restless and also because I thought she was about to give the caretaker of the Bentley a heart attack. The lady was very nervous and did not want Vivian injuring herself…which I completely understand. So, when Vivian and I took a walk down the beautiful entryway, in between the columns, Mr. Thompson snapped a picture of us walking hand in hand and it is just beautiful!!!! When he sends me the digital print, I will post it. Thanks again, sir.