10 Most Endangered Tour: Hotel Bentley

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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.

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Grand Staircase, Hotel Bentley, Alexandria, La

Grand Staircase, Hotel Bentley, Alexandria, La

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!

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Original frieze pattern in dome

Original frieze pattern in dome

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).

Lobby Ceiling: Hotel Bentley

Lobby Ceiling: Hotel Bentley

 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. 

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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.

The Hotel Bentley 1907-08

The Hotel Bentley 1907-08

Andrea

Renovation giving building new life for local Red Cross

Reposted from the Town Talk’s website

Renovation work continues on the Cotton Brothers Building — soon to be the new location of the Central Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross. 

The organization began renovations earlier this year to the building located at 425 Bolton Ave. in Alexandria. But just recently workers with Petron tore down an add-on to the original building, said Leann Murphy, CEO of the local Red Cross chapter.

Murphy said removal of the addition from the original art-deco structure helped open up the whole block of Bolton.

Workers now are constructing load-bearing walls inside the 75-year-old structure to allow for roof repairs.

Once the renovations are finished, the building will serve as office space and provide the Red Cross with a warehouse and designated training area. The second floor of the building will be left vacant initially. Read the rest of the story here:

 

Inside Cotton Brothers/Trailways Building -- soon to be American Red Cross Headquarters

Inside Cotton Brothers/Trailways Building -- soon to be American Red Cross Headquarters

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Cotton Brothers Bakery BECOMING Red Cross Headquarters

I was excited to receive an email and pictures today from Melinda Anderson, Director of the City of Alexandria’s Historic Preservation Commission (AHPC), of work that’s being started on the old Cotton Brothers Bakery/Trailways building on Bolton Avenue.  Ever since the news that the American Red Cross bought the building and obtained grants to rehabilitate it, I have passed by this building, almost daily, hoping to see contractors working or bricks being moved…or something!  Nothing really much has changed over the past 24 months…until today!  Here is what it looks like right now:

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I am excited for the city, for my neighborhood, for the American Red Cross and double thumbs up to all involved in saving this historic structure and for finding a new use for it.  Preservation of a historic or older building is the ultimate green thought. I can’t wait to see the final product!  I know this building will be a shining star on the Bolton Avenue corridor.   I look forward to more stories like this.  Alexandria needs it.

Andrea

425 Bolton Avenue

Yay!  Tuesday, a wall breaking ceremony was conducted at 425 Bolton Avenue which signified a turning point in this building’s history.  Instead of a date with the wrecking ball, this building will be given new life and new purpose by being rehabilitated into the local American Red Cross’ headquarters.  It is a monument on Bolton Avenue and many persons remember fondly riding their bike down Bolton Avenue alongside this building.  The grants and funds obtained for this project are going to be well spent.  I am excited to see the American Red Cross get a “new”, larger headquarters, all the while advancing Alexandria’s historic preservation.  Thumbs up to the City, HPC and all persons who made this possible.

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s ceremony.:

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Andrea