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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018

318 Forum History

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Century-old building is steeped in history

For most of its 30 years of publication, Forum has been located at 1158 Texas Ave., in a building rich in history and now more than a century old.

The headquarters of was built in 1900 by grocer Charles Deal (1862-1921), who had entered into business himself only a year earlier. Deal had entered into the grocery business as a young man working for Hoard F. Doll, a prominent Shreveport grocer and a relative by marriage of Deal’s. For some 10 years, he was buyer for the Doll Grocery Company, but, upon Doll’s retirement, took over the business, renaming it Chas. Deal Grocery and Liquor Company.

Deal and his wife, Louisa Marie (1866-1949), lived upstairs over their grocery store, and there they raised their family. The Deal Grocery Company also had one of the city’s earliest telephones (phone number: 8). The identity of the building’s architect is unknown, but judging from its style can probably be attributed to one of two well-respected local architects of the day: Luther T. McNabb or N. S. Allen. As Allen’s work is rather well-documented and no reference to this structure is found therein, it seems a reasonable and educated guess to attribute the building to McNabb, who is known to have designed other Texas Avenue commercial buildings as well as a number of similar downtown buildings and numerous Victorian homes. (The old Ogilvie-Wiener house, better known as “The Florentine,” is an example of his work.)

The Forum building originally was split into units, one having the address 1156 Texas Ave., the other 1158. The facade is a variation of the “Richardson Romanesque” style popular in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. It is named for its originator, New Orleans native Henry Hobson Richardson, who worked primarily on the East Coast. Originally, the building sported a two-story wooden balcony, which completely covered the sidewalk out front. This was destroyed in a 1915 fire, which also gutted the building.

In 1918 Charles Deal retired from the grocery business, moving to a house on nearby Hope Street. From 1919 to 1956 a succession of furniture stores occupied the ground floor of the building. From 1919 to 1921, Abramson Furniture Co. was located in the 1158 half of the building; a dry cleaners and laundry was in the 1156 half. From 1922 to 1925, Shreveport Furniture occupied 1158. During this time, 1156 had a succession of tenants: Texas Fruit and Produce (1922- 1923), Pendergast and Schwartzenberg Grocery and Meat Market (1924), and Frank Capola’s Confectionery (1925).

In 1926, Shreveport Furniture took over both sides of the building, just as Deal had done. In 1933 Shreveport Furniture closed, and a year later the Regent Furniture Exchange, which dealt in secondhand furnishings, took over the space. In 1946, Carson Furniture

Company succeeded Regent, remaining in business there for 10 more years.

All the while furniture companies occupied the downstairs of 1156- 1158 Texas Ave., the upstairs was occupied by a succession of rooming houses. The earliest of these appears to have been assignation houses, or tenements catering to prostitutes. The closure of Shreveport’s red light district in 1917 failed to stop prostitution, instead scattering it all over town. Texas Avenue was only blocks from the old district, and numerous boarding houses along the street rented rooms hourly; this was one of them. Illegal gambling operations are said to have operated here off and on as well.

The bordello period of the upstairs of 1158 Texas Ave. eventually gave way to more legitimate rooming houses. By the 1940s, the upstairs units had been remodeled as the Carson Apartments. In the 1950s, they became the Texan Apartments. In 1957, Middleton Restaurant Supply Company took over the building, and the rental of upstairs rooms ceased. In 1963, Tommie’s

Novelty and Vending Machine Company became the occupant of the entire building, being succeeded in 1961 by Sam’s Music Company, also a vending machine operator. Sam’s remained there until 1982.

The 1980s were a time of change for 1158 Texas Ave. Real estate developer Mary Nesbitt and architect Kim Mitchell bought the building and teamed up to refurbish it in 1984. This was part of the first significant attempt to revitalize the by-then blighted Texas Avenue corridor.

A number of restaurants occupied the downstairs during the next few years, including the Texas Avenue Deli (1986- 1988), the Cafe on Texas (1989-1990), Booker’s Shrimpies (1991-1992), Cafe Orleans (1993-1995) and the Classy Cafe (1996).

Upstairs, Dolph Miller Advertising Agency operated from 1987 to 1989 when Shreveport Landmark, a neighborhood revitalization agency for the Ledbetter Heights area, took over the space. Shreveport Landmark remained there until a fire on the night of July 20, 1989, did extensive damage to the offices. The cause of the fire was quickly determined to have been arson, set by an employee to cover up her theft of USDA funds granted to the organization for the child care food program. Both Shreveport Landmark and the building recovered.

In June 1990, the building was sold to Venture Publishing Group, publishers of Forum, which had recently been located on Jordan Street. Since that time, Forum has expanded both within the building and within the community.

The Forum building at 1158 Texas Ave. is one of the most significant surviving early commercial structures on Texas Avenue. Together with other old buildings along the corridor connecting downtown to City Hall, it forms part of an historic row of turn-of-the-20thcentury Shreveport mercantile structures that are presently being considered for inclusions on the National Register of Historic Places as part of an expansion of the Ledbetter Heights Historic District. 318 Forum is proud to have a role in preserving, recycling, and utilizing part of Shreveport’s past.

– Archives: Eric Brock


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