Foundation for Historical Louisiana names 2013 Preservation Award honorees

Foundation for Historical Louisiana names 2013 Preservation Award honorees
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POSTED: Saturday, July 20, 2013 - 9:00am

UPDATED: Saturday, July 20, 2013 - 9:04am

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana (FHL) Board of Directors will honor outstanding preservationists at the 37th Annual Preservation Awards Program on Wednesday, July 31, at the historic Capitol Hilton in downtown Baton Rouge.

Those chosen by the FHL Preservation Awards Committee are: Darryl Gissel, owner and broker of Oak Real Estate, LLC; Samuel Hyde, professor of history at Southeastern Louisiana University; Rita Lynn Erwin Jackson, certified genealogist and former LSU genealogy professor and librarian; The Baton Rouge High School Foundation; “The Phoenix” Award, Lance Bennett and Ben Babin, Spanish Town neighborhood preservationists; and, FHL Volunteer of the Year, Charlie Calandro, Calandro’s Select Cellars and Fine Wines.

Darryl Gissel, owner and broker of Oak Real Estate, LLC, which specializes in historic and inner city properties, was chosen for his extensive advocacy and dedication to preserving Louisiana’s architectural legacy, especially in Spanish Town and Beauregard Town Historic Districts. Gissel has a passion for old buildings and making sure structures as well as stories survive from generation to generation. Gissel recognizes that his work would not be possible without state and national historic tax credits.

Dr. Samuel Hyde, a history professor at Southeastern Louisiana University is the director for the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies, the current president of the Gulf South Historical Association and the Leon Ford Endowed Chair in Regional History. He is being recognized by FHL as an educator, scholar and author of Louisiana history. From his roots as a northern Tangipahoa Parish native, Hyde focused his passion for history into an extensive study of the Florida Parishes’ past.

Rita Jackson, certified genealogist and former LSU librarian, is known throughout her community for her love of historic preservation. FHL will honor Jackson for her cultural and educational preservation efforts in Iberville Parish and specifically with the Iberville Museum. The award was the result of her work with the Iberville Museum as the Volunteer Project Director of the “People of Iberville” and “Images of Iberville” series. At the museum, Jackson created "Preserving Our Past through Our People”, a program funded through a grant written to the “DOW Gives” program at Dow Chemical.

The Baton Rouge High Foundation is being recognized for its advocacy and perseverance in protecting historic Baton Rouge High. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, but after that time, it began to fall into a dilapidated state. In 2007, the East Baton Rouge Parish School system determined that the campus of Baton Rouge High School was in need of significant structural improvements. Many options were discussed, including the possibility of demolishing the campus, selling the land and moving BRHS to another location. The alumni and community, by way of emails, letters to newspaper editors, and correspondence to the then Alumni Association, expressed their strong objection to the idea of destroying this landmark, historic high school. After many meetings and careful analysis of the structures, budget and feasible outcomes, the alumni representatives offered a list of goals that would meet the needs of the district and preserve the historic aspect of the campus. Although several new buildings and amenities were created on the old campus, the main building was preserved. “We are proud to say that all of our expectations were met. It has been a joy and privilege to have advocated for our beloved alma mater, to represent proud ‘Bulldogs’ everywhere and to ensure that our school’s historic significance remains intact,” said a Foundation spokesperson.

The FHL "Phoenix Award" will be presented to neighborhood preservationists, Lance Bennett and Ben Babin, for the adaptive restorations of five Spanish Town bungalows. Several years ago, five houses in Spanish Town Historic District were in danger of being demolished to make room for a “supersize” apartment complex. Spanish Town residents were outraged and after much debate the community succeeded in saving the homes. The buildings were in major disrepair, and needed renovations. In 2012, Lance Bennett and Ben Babin bought the houses and began to restore them for today’s living. The houses were built in 1918 and 1936 and now they are sensitively restored on the exterior and very modern and comfortable on the interior. “We love the historic neighborhood,” said Babin. “We like restoring the past and Spanish Town is a great place to live.”The work that went into updating these houses included relaying the foundation, repairing railings, and adding new plumbing, wiring, heating, and air conditioning. Bennett and Babin’s goal was to restore the houses to sought-after attractive and affordable living spaces. "The federal and state historic preservation tax credits made this “save” feasible and financially advantageous," said Babin.

At every monthly Heritage Lecture, Charlie Calandro can be found in the dining room setting up trays with delicious hors d'oeuvres or smoothly pouring wine for guests. The Heritage Lecture series is one of the most significant on-going, educational events for the community hosted by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and Calandro’s dependable and gracious service makes the experience even more enjoyable. Calandro has volunteered his cordial service for over ten years. Calandro received his master’s degree in history from LSU in 1980.

Reserved tickets for the event are $75 per person for FHL members and $85 for guests. Preservation Patron Couple tickets can be purchased for $250 and tables of ten are available for reservation for $750. The dinner event will be held at the Capitol Hilton, formerly the city's historic Heidelberg Hotel. The event will feature a cocktail hour with a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres beginning at 6:30 p.m.; the dinner and program is scheduled from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Valet parking will be available. Reservations will be accepted through Thursday, July 25, by calling FHL headquarters at 225-387-2464. The public is invited to attend.

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