The National Center for Preservation Technology & Training partnered with Hodges Gardens State Park this summer on an historic landscape documentation blogging project.  NCPTT intern Derek Linn is working with Debbie Smith, chief of NCPTT’s Historic Landscapes program, on the project.

This multimedia documentation project uses a blog that incorporates photographs and video. NCPTT has collaborated with several local and regional groups and agencies, including the Friends of Hodges Gardens, the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, and the Louisiana Office of State Parks.   Many individuals share fond memories and passion for the Gardens.  Locals Ben D. Peterson and Northwestern State University Assistant Professor John Byrd have contributed significantly, as oral histories and interviews have been a focus of the research.

Hodges Gardens is located in southern Sabine Parish and lies approximately 15 miles south of Many, LA and 70 miles west of Alexandria.  Hodges Gardens was opened in 1956 and has been a cultural destination for decades. Established as a public garden, forested recreation space, and research area, the 4700 acre property also housed the private residence of Garden founders A.J. and Nona Trigg Hodges.  The Hodges’ vision ultimately reclaimed and repaired a landscape that was previously stripped for both logging and rock mining purposes.

Centenary College Choir members enjoying recreation time at the Group Lodge Dock. Circa early 1960s. The oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi, Centenary has a significant connection and history with Hodges Gardens. For more than 50 years, Centenary College Choir has led an Easter Sunrise Service at the Gardens, which continues today. The lodge in the background is no longer extant, and was intentionally demolished within the last two years. Historic photograph courtesy of John Byrd.

Hare & Hare (Kansas City) and Walker & Walker (Shreveport), are cited as the primary landscape architects and architects, respectively. Louisiana native, author, and conservationist Caroline Dorman served as Consultant on Natural Areas. The Hodges Foundation donated a core 948 of the original 4700 acre site to the State of Louisiana in 2007.

The purpose and scope of my research includes recognizing and recording significant Hodges Gardens landscape features and characteristics, as well as researching the Gardens’ change over time.  I am sharing challenges and discoveries of the historic landscape research online, in a blog where readers are encouraged to comment and discuss. The blog serves as a live, accessible case study for historic landscape documentation.

To learn more about the project and read the blog, visit http://ExploringHodgesGardens.wordpress.com.

Analyzing 1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial images covering the Hodges Gardens area.

Analyzing 1959 U.S. Forest Service aerial images covering the Hodges Gardens area.

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