Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jennings, La.

A thirty minute drive east on I-10 brought me to Jennings, Louisiana, the parish seat of Jefferson Davis Parish. It’s an old town, settled around 1881. It shouldn’t have surprised me to see the common Smalltown USA malady; closed store fronts, boarded-up windows, for lease signs. Yet it always makes me sad. But it’s obvious this town isn’t giving up easily. There are actually more small businesses in operation on Jennings’ N. Main Street than there are in downtown Lake Charles. I saw a general store or two, a couple dress shops, a children’s clothing store, a jewelry shop, a tanning salon, and a florist with a shop cat napping in the window.

They’ve done a great job dressing up the place with lots of interesting murals and this charming plaza where a sign says they have a farmers’ market each Saturday.

Jennings boasts three fabulous museums. The Zigler Art Museum houses a fine collection of various artists from Andrew Wyeth to Norman Rockwell and several local Louisiana artists such as our own Elton Louviere.

Walking over the threshold of the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum takes you back in time to the early 1900s. The museum is a replica of how the store looked in its heyday. All the items are original to the store, and they sold a little bit of everything. Clothing, shoes, hats, tools, toys, tonics, tobacco, sewing notions and fabric, groceries, livestock feed. The store also housed the post office. This museum is a fascinating look into life in the early 20th century. And I learned something. Did you know Shinola was a shoe polish way back then? Hence the expression You don't know sh** from shinola. I didn't know that.

Behind the Tupper Museum you’ll find the Telephone Museum, a comprehensive collection of artifacts telling the history of the telephone. Here are two dioramas, one of Alexander Graham Bell, and a typical telephone operator.

Jennings is not the place to go for fine dining, it would seem. But I enjoyed a very nice lunch of shrimp etouffee at Evangeline’s Café and Bakery. The desserts are all made on the premises, so I couldn’t help but try one. I’ve always loved red velvet cake, and I enjoy cheesecake, but I had never eaten red velvet cheesecake. Until today. And it was delicious with a latte.


Anonymous said...

What a great adventure. We can all learn something from you. I have been to Jennings shopping and antiquing, but I don't think the murals were there at the time. I need to visit the Mercantile shop to get some ideas for Mattie Bessie.

The artist of the murals may have been Bob Dafford from Lafayette. He and his crew have painted around 20 on the flood wall in my hometown. They depict the history of Paducah, KY, from its founding to present time. You would enjoy seeing them.

Thank for sharing. I'd like to show you the pictures of Paducah sometime.

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Jan Rider Newman said...

Jennings is a lovely and lively town.

Shannon said...

I didn't know there was a telephone museum in Jennings. Mike and I will have to stop there sometime--he'd probably find that interesting.