Not long ago, a home in my neighborhood was reduced to rubble because of chronic flooding. This is a common teardown in south Louisiana, where the water table can make home construction tricky, but it always makes me sad. To me, houses have as much personality as people. They witness so much life: new babies being brought home, holiday gatherings and deaths.
That brings me to the Hicks Mansion, which once proudly stood in downtown Shreveport. I spotted a glimpse of the mansion’s rooftop in a book about historic Shreveport, and I was intrigued. I had no idea that an antebellum mansion once called 416 Travis St. home. Downtowns used to be much more residential than they are today.
Recently, I stumbled across a treasure trove of photos that offer a much better view of the mansion, which was torn down in the 1950s to make way for a high rise building.
Some of these photos are from the Jack Barham Collection at LSU-Shreveport. Barham was a Shreveport photographer who died in 2018 at age 92. He was a combat photographer during World War II. From taking battlefield photos, he transitioned into a newspaper photographer, which was still exciting work. A young musician named Elvis Presley was getting his start at the Louisiana Hayride at the same time Barham was snapping pictures for the Shreveport Journal. The two became friends.
Twin Blend Photography posted these on Facebook. Twin Blend apparently specializes in blending then and now pictures. It’s an interesting concept.
Diving into the newspaper archives, I discovered that the Hicks Mansion was built by the Howell family. R.H. Howell and Francis Marion Hicks once were in the grocery supply business together. The partnership ended in 1888. Hicks got sole ownership of the company, and eventually, the downtown mansion. Francis’ son, Samuel Bailey, succeeded his father and moved his own family into the mansion. It was Samuel’s son who decided to tear down the mansion in the 1950s to make way for a business venture in which he had a stake.
The demolition didn’t happen without somewhat of a fight. After all, this was a landmark.
By the time the mansion was torn down in 1958, it had been standing for so long that its history was a bit murky although someone recalled that the third floor was added much later in its life.
Old-timers remembered the mansion belonging to a Miss Mamie Hicks. This was Sam Sr.’s wife, who died just a few months before the mansion tumbled to the ground. She was the last person to live there. Her husband died in 1925, leaving her to live in the mansion for decades.
In her obit, she was remembered as one of the last old ladies to occupy a downtown Shreveport mansion. She apparently clung to the home through the years as skyscrapers were erected around it. I wonder if she literally rolled over in her grave the day a wrecking ball swung through it.