Abandoned Baton Rouge's Greatest Hits
Uninhabited River Road

Dry Cleaners Past and Present, Plus ABR Birthday Contest

I always seem to notice the signs and architecture of dry cleaners, probably because they so often fall into the fabulous, future-of-the-past category of midcentury modern. I've seen numerous examples while driving around and more recently, biking around town, the latter of which leaves me neither dry nor clean.

I am making the following up because I didn't bother investigating, but from evidence available to the casual passerby today, dry cleaning boomed in the '50s and '60s, in some cases bolstered by a futuristic process called "Martinizing" that the cleaners liked to advertise in large loopy cursive lettering on their trapezoidal buildings.

This amoebic sign has a flashy retro design but is probably new.

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But let's look at some other dry cleaners, some abandoned, some still operational, and some of course in that Baton Rouge category of "who the f knows?". In that occupied?/semi-operational category, we've got Government Street's Rome Cleaners, whose eternal sale on UNCLAIMED WEDDING G OWN   S depresses the hell out of me.

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I get the feeling that Rome has fallen. It's always that dark in there when I pass by. The sign in the photo below says the hours are Monday through Thursday 9-4 and Saturday 9-12, but I just called the place at 3:45 on a Thursday afternoon only to have a robot message answer. That sign below also advises patrons to knock. How hard to you have to knock, I wonder, like into the past when this place was still operational? Or is someone hanging out in the back during those hours? (Someone besides the headless brides, that is?)

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One dry cleaner that has definitely pressed its last shirt has already been covered on this blog here.

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And then we have the Kean's empire. Here's a dramatic open one just up the street from Overpass Cleaners. Note the similarity of awning post shape on Kean's below to AAA pictured above.

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And near the edge of the downtown area, here's another operational Kean's with elaborate antique sign.

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A little further north, at Convention and North 19th streets, the second-ever location of Kean's.

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The dry cleaning storefront portion of this location is abandoned.

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Here's what this site looked like in 1932, eight years after Kean's moved from its original Government Street location, which was destroyed in a fire. Recognize that sign?

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Here's that view now.

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Wondering why I have an actual fact or two at the end of this post (as opposed to the usual wild speculation) not to mention an historical photograph? They come from the new book Baton Rouge, which contains more than 200 photos from 1850 through the present, along with fact-filled captions.

And that's where the contest comes in. When I first moved here a year ago, I was limited to the most local sites. But now that I have wheels and co-explorers, I'm ready to hit those farther-flung and riskier sites. I need suggestions! Whomever leaves the best suggestion in the comments of this post in the next ten days will get their own copy of Baton Rouge, just don't forget to leave your email address when commenting, so I can contact you about the prize.

(Hopefully it's obvious that these were not the thrilling sites I promised to visit in the last post. Those posts are still in the works.)

Historic photo reprinted with permission from Baton Rouge, by Faye Phillips and Sylvia Frank Rodrigue. Available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.



Comments

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Naomi

Creepy! You have to get one of those scary sad wedding dresses. What's the deal with leaving them at the cleaners? Do that many new brides actually do that?

The Mighty Favog

Pick a public school. Any school . . . though I'd put my money on Baton Rouge High or Lee High. Perhaps Glen Oaks and Broadmoor, too.

Try pitching a national education mag -- or another national pub -- a story idea about the crumbling educational infrastructure in Louisiana . . . and the reluctance of taxpayers to properly fund public schools combined w/ local school boards' amazing ability to squander the money they have.

Being a working journalist on that particular story will GET YOU INSIDE the buildings legitimately. And money is money.

Take some of your pictures when students aren't around to clutter the shots. Then, on the blog, have non-Louisianians guess whether the schools are in use or abandoned.

When I was in town last September, I took several rolls of film at my alma mater, Baton Rouge High. Some, I had to have custom developed in Omaha because it was high-speed B&W film.

When my wife went to pick up the pictures, the owner of the photo lab wanted to know whether the pictures were of a school destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

I am not making this up. And that is the difference between where I live now and where I grew up.

Leslie @ the oko box

maybe there should be an abandoned brides dresses of baton rouge too. ... .. .. creepy.

Julie

This blog is really awesome. I also love the suggestion The Mighty Favog left you.

kartek

Looks like you can a "vintage" wedding dress for pretty cheap....i bet they would sell for mega bucks up at screaming mimis

tjean314

Here's my suggestion for the ABR Birthday Contest. It's that old wharf just south of the Interstate 10 bridge. This rusty relic, festooned with bold graffiti, can be seen as you cross the bridge going east into Baton Rouge. If you do go there, proceed at your own risk, dress appropriately, obey all laws, etc., etc.

cokane

Naomi, I know: I'm disturbed. I'd be afraid to wear one of those. Also--puffy sleeves.

Favog: good idea. We passed the police station yesterday but it looked like it used to be a high school? And some of it also looked pretty beat up.

Thanks Julie!

TJean--LOVE that suggestion--we already took you up on it--only thing is you didn't leave your email?

Justin

Your pic of Overpass Cleaners is by far the best one you've posted yet. I couldn't help but make it my desktop wallpaper...

The Mighty Favog

The cop shop is on a leased, state-owned campus that was the original Louisiana School for the Deaf.

It quite literally is falling apart:

http://www.businessreport.com/news/2008/jul/28/kips-billion-dollar-gamble-edvl1/

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/25743749.html

The site's use as the deaf school dates back to antebellum times, and it also housed LSU for a time after the school's original campus in Pineville burned down in 1869.

LSU later moved to where the new state capitol is now, and then to its present site starting in the mid-1920s. The journalism building originally stood on the old campus as "Alumni Hall" but was moved in the early '30s, I think.

But we were discussing the dilapidated police HQ, weren't we?

Are you starting to see a pattern about how civic-minded Baton Rougeans are? Or, at a minimum, how they hate cops and high-school kids?

Like I said earlier, Baton Rouge "normal" equals total hurricane devastation to Omaha eyes.

The key to BR -- at least it was this way when I lived there -- is that it isn't a functioning city as Americans generally understand the concept. It's a loose confederation of warring neighborhoods.

Back in the day, the rivalry between Baton Rouge High and Istrouma was more akin to out-and-out class warfare. Among white people, being that blacks weren't allowed into the rumble . . . or either school.

My old man graduated from Istrouma in 1940. I graduated from Baton Rouge High in 1979.

We never did get along. He thought I was uppity.

cokane

Justin, WOW, thanks!

Favog, oh, that's the school for the deaf--I think there is a photo of it in that Baton Rouge book.

And we have a winner for the book--I have already acted on the suggestion of commenter tjean above, with great success. Other suggestions are always welcome.


Linds

Just my two cents about the Overpass sign, having spent too many years in the sign biz: new neon, old sign.

I enjoy both your blogs, hope the hurricane treats you well.

ScottBRLa

I used to enjoy poking around the abandoned drive-in theatres. The one I remember best (as abandoned, anyway) was the old Rebel Drive-In, which was at the corner of Government Street and Rebel Drive (which has now been renamed to something else) - it's just south of the Baton Rouge Community College site which fronts on Florida. The Showtown Drive-In I remember from being open - it closed sometime in the late 1980s, I think. There might still be something there to explore - it was on Airline Hwy., in the northwest quadrant of Airline and Sherwood...between Sherwood and the Capitol Buick/Pontiac dealership.

Jessica Wakefield

Rome Cleaners if full of it--I called them a few months back to ask about the wedding dresses (I am getting married soon) and the woman I spoke with was VERY standoffish and shady, telling me, "Well, that's really only for dresses that have been here for over ten years and we don't have that many of them." Not sure what the deal is with them keeping them all on display! Maybe they are trying to motivate people to pick up their clothes...

mesa dry cleaners

I actually met the owners of this business. hey also seemed like pretty nice gentleman, very family oriented. Let's give them a chance, and wish them the best!

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