Built in 1968, the original Woman's Hospital on Airline Highway near Goodwood was one of the first women's specialty hospitals in the country. Anecdotally, half of Baton Rouge was born there and/or gave birth there.
...just about. Abandoned Baton Rouge: Stories from the Ruins was set to come out yesterday, November 19th. The first shipment is a bit delayed, so I haven't held my first-born book yet, but I have some appearances lined up in Baton Rouge and Brooklyn and will be selling them there. You can also buy them from me here, and on Amazon, but more of your hard-earned cash goes to me when you buy directly from me.
I'm looking forward to seeing/meeting you all at one of the stops on my mini book tour:
- Book signing at the LSU Barnes & Noble bookstore, Friday, November 30 at 5:30 p.m.
- Presentation and signing at the Bluebonnet Regional Library, Saturday, December 1 at 10:30 a.m.
- Presentation and signing at the Capitol Park Museum, Sunday, December 2 at 2 p.m.
- Book signing at the Barnes & Noble CitiPlace Court, Sunday, December 2, from 5 - 7 p.m.
- Book launch party with my super-appropriate sponsor Abandoned Hard Cider at Bravi Ragazzi, Thursday, December 6, 7 - 9 p.m. This had to be postponed due to distribution problems with the book. New date TBD, hopefully end of February 2019.
- Or if you can't make that jam, hit me up and we'll make it happen.
You can RSVP to any of these events on the Abandoned Baton Rouge Facebook page.
So: It's just about out there in the world. I had many challenges, such as time, budget, and a toddler, but I did it. I hope you like it.
Fantastic news, friends.
Abandoned Baton Rouge will be part of Fonthill Media's America Through Time series. It should be out in time for Christmas 2018.
The Abandoned Baton Rouge book will have my words and photos plus new material, historic images, and lots of information. It will be a way to learn about Baton Rouge as I did, in reverse: by looking at what’s left and discovering the story behind it.
I will be putting on my research glasses and finding out Facts! Picture a montage in a movie of someone combing through microfiche in a library basement. (Does microfiche still exist? I'm about to find out.)
That means I'm coming your way, Louisiana. As always, I welcome tips on as yet uncovered sites I should check out, and offers to give me access and escort me through properties.
If you're new here, read on.
Earlier this month, I visited Louisiana for the first time since 2012. I stayed in New Orleans most of the time, but rented a car to come up to Baton Rouge for the day to explore for a new ABR post.
I've covered the sad-sack motels of Airline Highway before, but I missed the Watson Motel for two reasons: it's pretty far out in the southern direction I rarely ventured, and it's almost totally overgrown, so if you're not looking for it, it's very easy to miss.
What type of establishment was the Watson Motel and its attached bar? It closed before the Information Superhighway really got going, so very little information is available online.
But there is this:
In 2010, "Papercutninja" remembered it thusly on Tigerdroppings.com.
I used to live in Pecan Creek across from the State Fair Grounds. I used to ride my bike down the street that backs up to motel on my way to work at that McDonald's. I vividly remember seeing what looked like rental cars there parked out by the rooms. There is no chance that there was not prostitution going on there. I also remember a rumour about there being some kind of store or bar there that only sold single beers and half pints of hooch. It was allegedly called "Steve's" and it was supposedly a hang out for people that went to Woodlawn but who knows. Kids tend to spread shite around just to do so.
Having seen the place, I wholeheartedly believe this. (The first part would be a safe guess anyway, as the Watson was a motel located smack in the prostitution corridor between BR/New Orleans.)
As many of you know, I recently returned for a quick visit to Louisiana. I spent one day in Baton Rouge, and most of that day was spent at the Bellemont.
That mission was great, and I wanted to also stock up on photos for future ABR posts while I had the chance. But after a long day at the Bellemont, the prospect of searching for new sites in BR was not inviting, now that I had a rental apartment waiting for me down in NOLA. Before leaving, I swung by a few of my old haunts to check in.
The Real Superstore, which is remembered fondly in many comments on this post, is no longer offering low prices every day and is no longer even super. It's now just "store." (Probably because a movie shot there in February, according to the most recent comment on the post. YOU ARE WELCOME, FILM SCOUTS.)
The Bellemont's bar and lounge has gone by other names, most recently Brella's. In 1957 it was The Planters' Room.
The black and white photos above and the other historic shots here are from Baton Rouge library archives, dug up by Becky. In the above case, an article/brochure effused praise of the rooms' Old World-meets-New World decor, murals, furnishings, the chandelier imported from Czechoslovakia, and yadda. I regret not looking behind the bar for the old mural, but didn't examine these photos til after I had visited.
Most accomplishments in my adult life first appeared as items on to-do lists written on scrap paper. An abandoned motor lodge over 1,000 miles from my Brooklyn apartment called The Bellemont first made it back onto one of those to-do lists on March 30 when a commenter on this blog wrote that it was the lodging for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford while shooting the film "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" at Houmas House on River Road. (Joan did not last long on the film set-- it's too much to get into here, but there was no love lost between the actresses. Here's a quote on imdb.com attributed to Bette about Joan: "For a goddamn week in Baton Rouge, she brought twenty pieces of luggage. It was a black-and-white movie but she had color-coordinated outfits for the daytime scenes, and for the night shots all of her evening dresses were chiffon, which meant that the wardrobe lady had to spend hours ironing them in the one-hundred-degree weather." )
It wasn't just those two superstars who stayed at the Bellemont (allegedly): it was Clark Gable, John Wayne, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and later Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor when filming "The Toy", as well as Sonny and Cher, presumably when they were employed full-time by America as wearers of horribly awesome polyester pantsuits.
And all of this is just what I gleaned from digital hearsay in my blog comments. There is much history at The Bellemont. There are people who remember it and stories to be told. There is at least an article to be written here, and I'd love to write that article. I wished I had the time. While I am grateful to be an employed writer, after a minimum two-hour round trip of commuting each day, I return home drained of the energy for such extracurriculars.
Only about two weeks ago, when I heard they were tearing down The Bellemont, I knew I had to go down and see it all before it was too late, and I pitched the article. Before, I'd only seen it from the outside looking in--this time I would get inside and I would really explore it. Fortunately, Memorial Day weekend was coming up. And fortunately, my flight attendant friend had buddy passes so I could travel on short notice. And fortunately in this case, things do not move fast in Baton Rouge, including demolitions.
Here is just some of what I saw at The Bellemont on one day during its final weeks of existence.
...For The Bellemont, that is. It's being torn down. It's also not long until I post about it here with all new photos from my visit last week.
But your intrepid explorer is weary from her travels and planning the post. Meanwhile, if you're not already a fan, please like Abandoned Baton Rouge on Facebook and I'll be sure to announce when the new post is up.
(As always, click to enlarge photos.)