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Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020

The Harman Mansion


You would have to go back about 40 years in your memory to recall the Harman home at the unusual intersection of Kings Highway, Fairfield Avenue and St. Vincent Avenue. All three converged in front of the mansion. In the 80s, Kings Highway was aligned and massive live oaks removed to accomodate the improvements. St. Vincent Avenue was closed, and townhomes were built on the former site of the residence.

Many remember the beautiful home at unusual intersection

You can’t go home again, the adage goes.

And for the descendants of Sidney and Bessie Harman, it’s 100 percent true. The Harman mansion, which once stood at 3100 Fairfield Ave., was torn down in the early 1980s. Many readers will remember this notable home from the intersection of Fairfield Avenue, St. Vincent Avenue and Kings Highway before the street being “straightened” in the ‘80s. But pieces of the house, and fond memories, have gone with family members throughout Shreveport and Bossier City.

“I have the old ceiling fan from the sunroom,” Patrick Lamb said. “It weighs a country ton. It’s actually cast iron. It’s unbelievable. But it moves some air to this day.”

Lamb’s cousin, Mimi Glorioso, has a mantel, a chair and some other furniture that came out of the old house. But her memories of the house itself are mostly of its latter days in disrepair.

“I went in more than once, but it was already going down,” she said. “Scared the poop out of me. It got worse and worse. It was like an old haunted mansion.”

Lamb still paints a mental picture of the house in its heyday. He recalls the wide hallway flanked by two large rooms with huge pocket doors. The kitchen was in the back on the right, and the house featured sunrooms on each side. The decor featured lots of dark wood and wood paneling. A giant staircase led to a landing upstairs, but Lamb said he doesn’t recall any details about the second-story bedrooms.

Not all of the details he recalls are as beautiful, though.

“I remember when I was young and seeing water in that basement and seeing things,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t go in there.”

Some of the old tales went beyond the four walls of the house.

“Mimi’s dad told me this story,” Lamb said. “There used to be some bear statues in the yard. People would move the bears to different positions (as a joke) and stuff like that.”

Sidney Harman was an orphan growing up. He supported the Methodist Children’s House in Ruston, which has a building that still bears his name. Harman also hosted parties for orphans at the mansion. From what Lamb has learned through the years, those parties could be a circus at times.

“The circus came to town, and he bought all the little ponies from the circus,” Lamb said. “He would bring the ponies to the house and let the children ride them.”

Patrick said another family treasure was discovered when his parents married on the property.

“My dad married my mom in 1957,” he said. “He remembers very distinctly going into that garage behind the house. My great-grandmother had a car that still had plastic on the seats. He said it was a shame. Never driven. She famously would ride the trolley up and down Line Avenue. She wasn’t allowed to drive my mom and my aunt and uncle when she was younger. They didn’t trust her.”

Harman became an influential businessman in Shreveport. Rich Lamb, Patrick’s nephew, shared the book “History of Shreveport and Shreveport Builders,” by Lilla McLure and J. Ed Howe. It details Harman’s history in the cotton oil business, including building the first cotton oil mill in Bossier Parish in 1896. He also worked as a cotton stockbroker and built the Independent Ice and Storage plant in Shreveport.

Harman was a generous philanthropist as well. He played roles in bringing Barksdale Air Force Base and Shriner’s Children’s Hospital to the area. In addition to his support for the Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, he was a big supporter of Centenary College and other civic enterprises.

In fact, when the family was trying to sell the Harman house, the family discussed donating it to Centenary or the city of Shreveport for a library. But the home had fallen into such a state of disrepair that neither Centenary nor the city wanted to take it on.

The Harmans and their descendants have ties to another historically significant home in Caddo Parish. Many family gatherings took place at the family’s historical plantation home in Greenwood, the first brick home built in the parish.

“I’ve got a few bricks from that old house, and a few furnishings and stuff,” Patrick said. “The old family cemetery is still there. To this day, we have a farm, and we go out there. As long as I have been alive, and long before me, Easter and Thanksgiving, we all went out to the country.”

Sidney and Bessie Harman lived with their two daughters in a house at Herndon and Creswell before moving to 3100 Fairfield. Their daughters were in college by that time.

“Neither one of the girls, my great-aunt or my grandmother, lived in the house,” Patrick said. “Just my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather lived there until he died in 1947. Great-grandmother stayed there until the early 1960s, I say ’61 when she moved in with my grandmother.”

Patrick said there might be another reason for choosing that specific house.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s family folklore,” he said. “My great-grandfather owned a lot of property, and he loved owning corner lots. That was a particular interest of owning that property because, obviously, it has a lot of corners. Also, it was considered the center of Shreveport.”

In the years the home stood vacant, vandals and weather took their toll. Glorioso said that one Easter, some people pulled a truck up to the house and collected whatever they could from it. They were like “movers hauling stuff off,” she said.

Rich Lamb said that someone sent him a silver spoon two years ago and some books they had taken from the home.

Patrick lamented the fact that the history and nostalgia are lost on many people today.

“It’s a shame they couldn’t save more,” he said. “Some people just don’t appreciate old stuff. Other people would pay for that old stuff, and it’s gone.”

Back row, left: Sidney J. Harman and Bess Stringfellow Harman; at center are Thomas Levert Stringfellow and Georgia Howell Stringfellow.

Patrick Lamb, Mimi Glorioso and Rich Lamb share memories of the family home.

Descendants of the Harman family still revere parts of the mansion that were salvaged, including this chandelier and fireplace mantel.


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