A look back at Historic Front Street

Joe Taylor

After a 1918 fire destroyed the business section of Coushatta, located by the river, trade and travel turned to the newly constructed railroad for speed and efficiency. Several businesses began locating near the railroad. From 1890-1918, the Marston Building, Brown Brothers, and the Jones Building (later B.O. Jones) businesses occupied spaces close to the tracks. After the fire, more businesses began relocating, and the biggest building boom in town history began. The entire business strip on Hessmer Ave. (Front Street) would be completed within five years.

Being interested in the history of our parish, I began visiting with Coushatta residents years ago to establish a record of what they recalled. I visited with Glen Jones, Roby Jones, and Henry Bethard to discuss the 1930s in our town. We created a map and discussed the town’s remarkable growth in the thirty years since it was founded. In fact, the parish population in the 30s was double what it is today. The lack of good roads and the large farms in the area made the business section bustle with activity.

Pause to think about Coushatta at this time. The courthouse and the high school had just been built (1928). The business section with its brick stores was new, and the town had just put in sidewalks, water, and sewage. Some of these lines are probably ones that are a source of leaking and trouble today in the town.

Among the businesses located on Front Street starting from the south end and moving north were the Ford Dealership of Milton Brown (Jennings Welding shop), McFerring fruit stand, Busy Bee Dress Shop, Lore Service Station, The Citizen Office, Taylor Store and Hollywood Theater (later to burn), Dr. Edgerton Drug Store(Fowler Drug), Howard Mercantile, Paul Palmer Pool Hall, Stephens and Edgerton Coushatta Herald, Campbell Company, Wilson Drug (McGee), Paul McDonald Barber, L.P. Stephens Store, Post Office, Bank of Coushatta. There were law offices of Bethard, Stephens, and Cagle. Givens Dentist, the Model Hotel, and Gulf Service Station were at the end of the street. Across the street was Lisso Variety (Wise’s Store).

Across the railroad tracks were People’s Bank, Marshall Hunter Store (Paco Theater), Dr. Hunter’s office, Posey Store, and Vanveckhoven Cafe. On the other side of the street were the Coushatta Hotel (Huckabay Clinic), Booth McClellan Chevrolet, Dr. Davis, Ramey Shoe Repair, CLECO, and Carter Bros. (Western Auto).

To look at downtown Coushatta today, one would not believe that back then, so many thriving businesses existed. All too soon, the population would start to decline, and businesses would begin to close.

The map constructed during my time with the Joneses and Mr. Henry is too large to publish. It includes the entire town. Come see me if you want to see it all.