Places to See
Louisiana’s Legend Country boasts historic sites which tell the stories of its adventurous past, but it also features art galleries and exhibits throughout the year, showcasing its creative culture. Take a stroll down our Historic Main Street area in Leesville and venture further out into the region beyond to take in all there is to see in Vernon Parish.
Museum of West Louisiana
The Museum of West Louisiana is housed in the historic Leesville KCS Depot building. From 1916 until 1968, the Kansas City Southern railroad served as a primary travel and transportation center for the city of Leesville and all of the surrounding area, but eventually rail travel declined and the building fell into a state of disrepair. On October 25, 1984, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and by 1986 had been fully restored to serve as a storehouse of artifacts illustrating the history, culture, and resources of Vernon Parish and the West Central area of the Louisiana Territory.
Other buildings on the grounds including a dogtrot cabin, a shotgun house, and a section house, serve as excellent examples of the architectural styles which were common to the area during the 1800s and early 1900s. Each has been fully restored and displays a variety of historical artifacts. Pioneer Park, located on the southern end of the museum property, is available for picnics, cookouts, special events, or just sitting and relaxing.
Items of interest include archaeological artifacts, logging and railroad memorabilia, clothing and household items, and special displays. Recent additions include the P.O.W. Paintings, a group of scenes painted on the walls of a local hotel by German prisoners of war during World War II. The Museum Gift Shop showcases many handmade and donated items.
Hours: Tues-Sun 1:00-5:00pm or by appt. FREE ADMISSION
New Llano Cooperative Colony
The New Llano Cooperative Colony was founded in 1917 by Job Harriman. It was located two miles south of Leesville on 20,000 acres of cut-over land.
Members paid $2000 and were given a job. In return they received a home and their share of food. The people were self-sufficient, farming the land and operating various manufacturing and specialty businesses. They had their own school, infirmary, hospital, and recreational facilities. The colony was closed in 1937.
The Museum is open Thursday-Friday from 10am to 4pm.
This building, standing across the railroad tracks from Hwy. 171 in New Llano, housed the commissary for the community.
Old Mitchell Graveyard
The Old Mitchell Graveyard is the first known cemetery to exist in Vernon Parish. Two Revolutionary War soldiers and an ex-slave are known to be buried there. It is located east of Anacoco.
Reid-Howerton House, 1905
The Reid House was built c. 1905 and extensively re-modeled in 1925. In fact, the only original features that appear to remain from 1905 are the door and window frames on the interior -- on the first floor each features bull's eye corner blocks while those on the second floor feature a plain corner block formed of a piece of wood.
The house occupies the highest elevation in town some three blocks west of downtown Leesville. A brick retaining wall with cast iron ornamentation found at the front is believed to date to the original c.1905 construction. A 150-year-old live oak graces the front yard.
In 1928, Dr. William E. Reid, established and operated Vernon Parish's first hospital, called Leesville Hospital. His wife purchased the house and he and his family lived there until 1948, when he moved to Shreveport to become superintendent of Charity Hospital.
A review of the Leesville Leader in the early years of Dr. Reid’s hospital provides considerable insight into the type of treatment available. On February 14, 1929, “In the Local Hospital” reported 12 patients being hospitalized for the following: a serious burn, appendectomies, an auto accident, a caesarian, “several serious operations,” and an undisclosed illness requiring several weeks of treatment.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Smart Plantation House 1855
Built in 1855, the Smart Plantation House is the oldest building in Leesville. Located on the corners of First and Lula Streets, it is a prime example of the Southern Planter architectural style.
The house was home to Dr. Edmund E. Smart and his family, who owned considerable acreage in the area. When Vernon Parish was created from parts of Sabine, Natchitoches, and Rapides parishes, Dr. Smart offered to donate part of his land for the courthouse and the city of Leesville was established as the county seat.
The one-story wood frame house faces the old Leesville central business district. It rests on brick piers and has a spreading hip roof with a low pitch. It features a quite distinctive gallery, which originally encircled the entire house. The unique columns, with their cutout design, are Italianate in style.
A central gallery runs from the front door to the rear of the home, where there was originally, a matching door opening to the back side of the gallery. When both doors were left open it allowed a nice breeze for early residents. Both four panel doors had sidelights and a transom which would have allowed light to enter.
In addition, the original house had a separate kitchen which sat on the south side of the house. Kitchens were often separate from the main house, primarily because of the danger of fire. This building still remains on the property.
Over the years, other changes have been made -- closing in the back gallery, removing the twin chimneys, and installing modern paneling inside. Recently, however, the home has been purchased by James and Mariget Turner, who have already begun restoring the house to its original condition. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Talbert-Pierson Cemetery is located on Hwy 277, next to Pine Grove Methodist Church in Cravens, LA. The cemetery contains some unusual wooden grave houses. The origins of gravehouses are uncertain. Many believe that it began as a means of protecting the graves before cemeteries were commonly fenced. Special trees were cut from the nearby woods then carved into uniquely designed pickets, which were then constructed into sheds complete with metal roofs. Although modern burial practices have made this unnecessary, some families continue the tradition today. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Thornton House was home to some of the earliest settlers in the Pitkin area. In fact, the town of Pitkin was originally named Lydia in honor of Mr. Thornton's daughter, but it had to be changed later since there was already a town named Lydia in Louisiana. It was then named after a railroad man.
US Post Office c. 1936
Built by the W. P. A. (Works Progress Administration) during the Great Depression, the U.S. Post Office is built in the Art Deco style. Above two of the windows in the main façade are bas-relief sculptures which herald the advent of air mail. Inside the lobby is another bas-relief sculpture depicting a farmer leaning against a hoe and his wife, seated reading a letter. The interior sculpture was created by a New York artist, Duncan Ferguson, who was first brought to Louisiana by Huey Long to start the art school at Louisiana State University.
Vernon Bank Building c. 1904
The Vernon Bank was located in the large commercial building built in 1907 by George R. Ferguson of Nona Mills Lumber Company. The bank portion of the building had a Romanesque style façade with arches over the windows and a corner entrance with a Corinthian column. During the 1950's and 60's the facade was replaced with modern tile, although this has since been replaced using windows and siding which are very similar to the original. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Vernon Parish Veteran's Plaza
The Vernon Parish Veteran's Plaza, located on Third Street, across from the Leesville Post Office, was built to honor all Vernon Parish veterans. Since it was begun in 2000, the memorial has grown to contain seven stone tablets engraved with the names of many Vernon Parish veterans.
At the site, the American flag towers above the flags of the five US military branches, including Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, as a POW flag flutters to the side, alone, but not forgotten.
Wingate House c. 1905
The Wingate House (c. 1905) is a Queen Anne - Colonial Revival residence primarily distinctive from other Leesville homes because of its rounded turret topped by a Baroque bell-shaped metal roof and the bold undulating veranda emphasized by classical columns.
Just off the street is a large concrete block which served as the "carriage block", where carriages would pull up and stop to allow the young ladies to easily step out.
When you enter the house, one of the first things you notice is the small vestibule. Inside the vestibule is another door that opens into the house. If this door was open, the family was "receiving"; if visitors arrived and the inner door was closed, they could leave their "calling cards" in a tray on a small table in the vestibule without disturbing the family.
There are no fireplaces in the house and apparently never were -- the house was fitted for central heating when it was built. The furnace was located in the basement, which was also unusual for homes in the area, and each room had its own register to distribute the heat throughout.
The main staircase features three runs of steps and three landings, one of which is set off by a protruding oriel window. In addition, there is a rear servant's stair in the kitchen wing. Bellpulls were located throughout the house, including beneath the tabletop, so that servants could be easily summoned.
The home was built by Senator Thomas Wingate around 1905. At the time, Wingate had just been elected to the Louisiana Senate, where he served from 1904-1908. Wingate returned to Vernon Parish and served as Sheriff from 1908-1912, then as a land agent in the area. In 1918, he sold the house (some say he lost it in a poker game) to John Bagents.
In 1924, Wingate was again elected to the Louisiana Senate, this time serving from 1924-1940. In addition, he served for a brief period in 1935 as Lieutenant Governor when Lt. Gov. John B. Fournet won a special election to the New Orleans-based state Supreme Court and could not complete his term.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.