When creating an uncommon and unprecedented community revitalization project like Shreveport Common, many fascinating tidbits of historical information pop up: the significance of race relations over the past century, the yellow fever plague, the decline of the Common area in the late twentieth century. But it’s not all bad news. In fact, some of the Common’s features will raise your eyebrows and maybe your spirits, too.
We’ll be delving deep into the quirky side of Shreveport Common. With over one hundred years of history, some unusual events, odd instances, and peculiar stories beg to be told.
Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Actually, no. It’s Saturn. Yes. Saturn sits high a top Shreveport Common. Look for it on top of the flag pole at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, though no one is exactly sure why it’s there. On the back of the Municipal is something odd; have you ever noticed those cannons? Also, the Municipal has been used for more than just entertainment. During World War II, it served as a barracks for the military. Plus, it housed an early aircraft warning system, aka a radar facility. Several films have used the auditorium including a movie about Hank Williams, and part of the basement still has the set of a jail standing.
Who? Who? Who’s looking at you? Probably the owls. Four of them to be exact. They’re part of the Italian Renaissance style on top of the Central Arts Station. Or maybe it’s the eyes you can see in the “Eighty-foot Mural” that lines the front of 800 Texas Avenue. Wildlife has been making a splash in the Common for a centuries! In the early 1900s when houses stood right next to the Church of the Holy Cross, a Sunday service was interrupted. Apparently the owner of the house right next to the church nave kept monkeys as pets. During service with the windows open, guess what sneaked in!
Shreveport has one of the only five working Bevador coolers in the United States. And it’s close to the Common. Stop by the Korner Lounge and see this rare piece of Americana, and they might tell you the story behind it. (It may or may not have fallen off a rail car and brought to this local watering hole.)
Now you’ve probably seen a safe or two in your life. But have you ever seen a safe with two doors? Well there is one with two doors in the Scottish Rite Cathedral built into a wall. When it was first built in 1915, the Freemasons shared some of the office space with the Shriners. Instead of installing two safes, they decided to share one big safe that had doors on both sides. Inside this safe are two safes with a door for each order. Each safe faces the corresponding office. Now that’s cooperation and teamwork!
Beware leaving things on the counter in the Logan Mansion. Owners say that a ghost resides in their home. It’s a tragic tale of a girl who fell out of the third story window to her death. Now she haunts the mansion, but she is a friendly ghost according to the owners. Nowadays people swear they see a girl looking out of a second story window. Visitors sometime find their keys or purse missing, only to return shortly after and find their belongings are right back where they left them. This is one of many ghost stories around Shreveport Common including more in the Municipal and Oakland Cemetery. Check out the haunted tour on offer monthly.
If you’ve missed the big, giant dog next to the Central Artstation, let me introduce you to Art. You can’t miss him. He’s big, white, and his spots light up in an array of colors. You can even sponsor a spot through the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.
Have you heard about musical architecture? It give the phrase “playing the house” a whole new meaning. Next door to the Calanthean Temple is Calanthean Canyon. In 2014, New Orleans-based Airlift transformed the space into a musical stage. Every part of the stage could be played, making for a unique performance.
Speaking of music, for a long time the gospel radio station KOKA took up residence in the Logan Mansion. A few gospel performers from the Municipal and the radio station also sang at the Lakeside Baptist Church back in the day. Singer and Reverend Al Green sang and preached to the congregation.
Doll lovers rejoice! The owner of the Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion loves to collect dolls. She proudly displays them in a room on the top floor. It can be part of the tour if you ask about it. You’ll also see the rooms where celebrities hung out after performing at the Zebra Room, the Strand, the Calanthean Temple, the Municipal, and other performance halls. It truly was (and will be again) a place for anyone to enjoy.
If you see a quirky sculpture in the middle of an empty concrete slab, that’s actually a “Skate-able” piece of art. Legendary skateboarder and artist Steve Olson came from California to design and build this sculpture. All of the graffiti art was done the same day as the unveiling. All skateboarders are welcome to use the sculpture, but skate at your own risk.
Shreveport Common is no stranger to quirky parades. Folks lined the streets in 1909 to watch the relatively new invention called the automobile according to the book “Lost Shreveport.” History came alive in 2014 when Emmy Award winning artist Wayne White along with local artists created a parade for the UNSCENE series with floats made mostly out of cardboard. Some of the great figures from the past included icons from the Calanthean Temple, Oakland Cemetery, and an Elvis sighting.
There’s plenty more quirk around the Common. Take a little time to explore and find something quirky for yourself. You have to admit, some of the quirkiness has made Shreveport Common the best. Don’t believe me? Someone wrote it big on a wall. Have fun finding that!