BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Nestled along the Mississippi River and stretching from Baker to Prairieville, the nearly 324-year-old city of Baton Rouge is home to a number of places that reflect its history and culture.
There are the LSU Campus Mounds, believed to be relics of the Archaic Period, and the antebellum-era Old Louisiana State Capitol building. Landmarks like these are well-preserved glimpses into Louisiana’s past, and they’re frequently enjoyed by tourists and locals.
But Baton Rouge has other historic sites that don’t receive as much attention. Despite their cultural value, they’re on track to fall further into ruin and eventually disappear.
The four most endangered historic sites in BR
The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit that works to preserve the state’s historic landmarks, has listed the locations below as the four most endangered sites in Baton Rouge.
1. Greater New Guide Baptist Church
Louisiana’s capital area falls squarely into the part of the nation known as “The Bible Belt,” and this is well-illustrated by the number of historic churches that line Baton Rouge’s roadways.
The Greater New Guide Baptist Church, situated along the intersection of Spanish Town Road and North 19th Street, was once a thriving center of worship and a meeting place that was used to encourage Black citizens to vote.
A small church group started congregating around World War I. The Rev. Ike Kelly is credited as its original leader. He steered the small band of worshipers through a move to the North 19th Street building in 1914, but he died the following year.
In 1963, Charles Evers attended Greater New Guide Baptist Church during an event designed to encourage Black citizens to vote. This was a profound moment as Evers’ brother, Medgar Wiley Evers was a well-known civil rights activist who had been assassinated only a few months before the event.
Click here for more on the church’s history and current congregation.
2. Lutheran Cemetery
Throughout the 20th Century, a number of Baton Rouge’s Protestant Black citizens were laid to rest at the Lutheran Cemetery on Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive.
As a quiet spot with a verdant landscape, it seems appropriate for a final resting place. But over the years, the funds that were used for upkeep dwindled. Now, there’s no money to maintain the area.
A group of volunteers help out when they can, and more information about their efforts can be found on the cemetery’s Facebook page.
3. Prince Hall Masonic Temple
The tall and somewhat imposing structure in the 1300 block of North Boulevard is not easy to miss. As the state headquarters for the Prince Hall Masons, this building holds the records and history of the Black fraternal organization.
Though this site is in need of attention, it was once the place to be. Well-known African American entertainers and community leaders filled the ground floor theater and attended galas in the ballroom of the Temple’s upper floor.
Without support, the historic building might disappear.
4. Dixie Consolidated Rosenwald School
Baton Rouge is home to one of the few remaining original Rosenwald School buildings left in the state. This remnant of the past, which is now used as a discipline center for EBR school system, was the brainchild of Booker T. Washington.
The Louisiana Trust says Washington felt the public schools in the South didn’t provide Black children with adequate facilities and he wanted to do something about it.
So, a number of schools were constructed across Louisiana. In fact, approximately 388 were constructed between 1920 and 1932.
They were partially funded through a challenge grant from Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. In most cases, Rosenwald provided one-third to one-half of the funds needed to build the standard floor plans and the community had to raise the remainder.
Many of these buildings continued to function until the desegregation of the public school system in 1970.
The only other Rosenwald School in the state built of masonry which still remains is in DeRidder, in Beauregard Parish.
Why do sites like these become endangered?
Brian Davis, a representative of The Louisiana Trust says many owners of historic landmarks want to preserve the sites but lack the resources needed.
Even so, the sites can be salvaged.
Davis explained how,“One of the things the Louisiana Trust can help with is to see what may be available to help, from state and federal historic tax credits to grants and other incentives.”
One reason why Louisiana Trust compiles a list of the state’s most endangered places is to increase awareness that they will be lost if immediate action isn’t taken.
So, when sites like are added to the list, the goal is to get help saving them.
“While there is no cash award for being placed on the list, the designation can be useful for owners when making requests for grants and donations,” Davis said. “The Louisiana Trust also has a more personal involvement with the site, since we want to see sites removed from the list after a successful rehabilitation or protection.”
LTHP takes public nominations for endangered sites from the public throughout the year and a committee reviews them each March, for consideration of that year’s MEP list.
LTHP will post the 2024 nomination form to its website soon and encourage locals to nominate sites from around the state.
The path to preservation
The path to preservation starts with a few stepping stones and according to Davis, the first step involves speaking with a willing owner.
Davis said, “Steps in the right direction may include meeting with the owner to see what their interests and intent with the property are.”
He suggested using the discussion to answer questions such as:
- Do they want to maintain ownership?
- Would they consider selling or donating it to someone who could save it?
- Would they consider placing a preservation easement on the property, which could legally protect it into the future?
Davis said the next step involves, “Volunteering to help the owner clean, stabilize or raise funds.”
If you’d like to help save a capital area historic site that’s on the endangered list, email Davis for more information at bdavis@LTHP.org.