The latest session for our Leadership Tangipahoa class was very intriguing and educational. We were grateful for Mr. Howard Nicols to meet with us at the Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Center to inform us of the history of the Hammond area. We learned about the early years and the different types of industry that were in operation in the 1800s. He explained that Mr. Cate solicited buyers for the newly developed city by passing out hand bills advertising the sale of lots to the World Fair goers that was held on New Orleans in 1884.
Our next stop was the Columbia Theater where Donna Gay Anderson gave the class and in-depth tour of the facility. It was very fascinating to learn of the history of this wonder asset and its current role for the arts and entertainment sector of this parish. It should be noted that this theater offers a wide genre of entertainment year round.
The future site of the Children’s Museum was our next destination; where we toured three train cars that are under renovations for this worthy project. Deputy Davidson presented an educational power point production on the railroad systems; it was fascinating to learn that at one time there were hundreds of miles of railroad throughout this parish. He explained that the majority of the towns in our parish are in existence because of the railroad system. Some of the commodities that were shipped via the rail system from our area were lumber and strawberries. Mr. Davidson informed us that Kentwood was at one time the largest city in the parish during the height of the sawmill industry in the parish.
After lunch we were informed on the Hammond Regional Art Center by the director Joey France. We were not able to tour their building on Thomas Street as they are currently undergoing renovations. Mr. France explained to us the different activities that are held at the center. There are planning to host a children’s art camp, an adult art camp and a children’s theater camp, in addition to the exhibits. We learned that the art center is financed though donations, grants, memberships, and in kind contributions.
From there we traveled to Ponchatoula for a downtown walking tour presented by Mr. Jim Perrin. As a lifelong resident of Ponchatoula, I learned many new facts about the city. One detail I did not realize is that there are several sets of “twin” building in the city. In addition to this new fact, Mr. Perrin explained to the class about the old town hall and jail, the several hotels that once was in town, and a very insightful history of a majority of the building in the downtown area.
Our last stop of the day was a visit to Louisiana Furniture Gallery, a non-profit organization, which sales handmade furniture for Louisiana craftsmen. Also in the same location is the art studio of Bill Hemmerling. We were able to meet with him and speak to him about his work and where he finds the inspiration to create these masterpieces.
I challenge everyone to explore your own “backyard” and learn more about this great parish; you would be amazed at all there is to do right at home.
In closing, I encourage anyone interested in participating in this rewarding program to obtain more information on becoming a member at www.leadershiptangi.org. You would be astonished at the information you will discover about Tangipahoa Parish.