Ledbetter Heights Tour
Rediscovering The Bottoms
The Bottoms, a storied section of the Allendale neighborhood, has been emptied of residents over the past decade.
Renamed Ledbetter Heights in 1982 by a well-meaning city council (Huddie Ledbetter did not live there but visited the Bottoms and wrote songs about it), the area was a multi-ethnic, multi-class neighborhood for most of its history.
From 1903-1917 the city declared that prostitution would not be prosecuted in the St. Paul’s Bottoms. This followed the example of New Orleans, which established the Storyville district in 1897. Both areas rescinded their prostitution guidelines in 1917.
Today, The Bottoms is a decimated, mostly silent and vacant neighborhood. Gone are most of the decrepit structures that once housed families and businesses. Today, few of the appealing-looking shotguns remain. The empty lots have become homes to oaks and mulberry trees and field grasses.
Across the nation, cities have tried to jump-start once-blighted areas by funding mixed-income developments. Now it’s Allendale’s turn to experience redevelopment.
Milam St. Kitchen Incubator & Community Kitchen (MSKICK) is an entrepreneurial center on the corner of Christian Street and Milam Street. In an unassuming new building one block from the Municipal Auditorium, it currently has three food entities in the house: Nate’s BBQ & More, Taylor’d Eatz (proprietor Robyne Moore-Taylor’s range of foods that feature Jamaican and Caribbean spices), and Vegans on the Run, an assortment of tasty meals prepared without animal products. The vegan entrepreneur is Dr. Joslin Pickens, who is additionally a Southern University professor.
Each chef is independent. Customers will find menus, hours and the ability to book meals on Facebook pages. Please see https://www.facebook.com/ Vegansontherun, https://www.facebook. com/tayloredeatz and https://www.facebook.com/bignatesbbqandmore.
On the edge of Sprague Street adjacent to Oakland Cemetery is a weed-filled, two-acre lot destined to become an urban farm. Director and Shreveport Green employee Lauren L J Jones, a person clearly invested in the love of gardening and love of Shreveport, has been working on the plan since 2017. The late landscape architect Lloyd Overdyke was the project’s professional designer until his untimely death in April 2021.
Jones’ plans include a considerable orchard, watercourses and “growing a ton of fresh produce alongside community members and volunteers, using sustainable methods.” Companion planting, crop rotation and low/no-till farming are her key words.
“We are adamantly opposed to the application of pesticides and believe that working with the environment is the key to an abundant harvest. We will host workshops on gardening and nutrition, repurposing used materials, and using herbs from the farm to create lip balms, soaps, lotions and teas that can be later sold by residents at the Pierre pop-up market.”
The project is funded by a Choice Neighborhood grant through Housing and Urban Development. The city of Shreveport’s Choice Neighborhoods Project, says City of Shreveport Director of Community Development Bonnie Moore, aims to restore the Lakeside, Allendale and Ledbetter neighborhoods.
“What I really want to put emphasis on in this project is that it’s community-inspired, not just a nonprofit coming in saying, ‘This is how we’re going to do it, and this is what you’re going to get through the services provided,’” Jones said.
Looking across the historic acreage, a once-humming community, Jones says emphatically, “I want us to all come together and recognize the needs of the community and funnel that money appropriately so that we’re actually serving through request rather than what we see. I’m excited about it.”