Chances are good that you have seen activity over the past month at 421 Market/220 Texas St., the building most know as the ‘old Dees Photo.’
The building has occupied a prime site for possibly 120+ years, a witness to the history of downtown and the many changes along Texas Street. Mike and Mark Mangham, the Twin Blends twins, dug through the old Sanborn fire maps and photos in the Northwest Louisiana Archives at LSUS and found that the building on the site in the late 1800s matched the size and configuration of the current building, as did the building from the 1920s.
In 1885, the building was the home of a carpet business, by 1907 it was a ‘novelty studio’ (whoopee cushion sales, perhaps?), and in quick succession it was a Rexall store, cigar store, an office to an oil producer, a barber shop, a shoe hospital, a real estate company, a combination key shop, barber shop and tailor, the Busy Bee Cafe, and a sign painter’s shop.
All the business changes ended in 1938 when the new owners paid $9,200 to the Werner Company to have the building modernized as a Western Auto store, a business that would remain there for years. In 1949, Western Auto redecorated the store yet again, to better allow ‘scientific store arrangement advances developed by Western Auto.’ Store Manager E.H. Jones told the Shreveport Journal that these changes would allow the ‘customer to view, examine and select their item with less trouble.’
You may remember Western Auto. The Western Auto Supply Company had more than 6,000 locations across the country selling automotive supplies and a variety of other items from washing machines to lawnmowers to personal care items and many things in-between. The chain started in Kansas City, MO, in 1909, and was around until it was sold to Sears in 1988 and became Advanced Auto Parts.
to reports, something in the pile of Christmas lay-aways on the second floor storage area spontaneously combusted. The 100 customers and employees down below were unaware of the conflagration until they were alerted by a passerby that smoke was boiling from a second story window, whereupon everyone ‘filed out of the store in an orderly manner’ stated Lloyd Ernest, Appliance Supervisor. The fire damaged the second story, charred 300 bicycles and led to roughly $25,000 in damages.
By 1979, the building had become the home to Dee’s Photo Supply, which it would remain until being closed and sold in the early 2000s.
Since then, the building has been reconfigured a couple of times, once for a restaurant that did not open and once for offices for a trucking company that never occupied the space. In 2019, the building was donated to the Downtown Shreveport Development Corporation (DSDC), a group with a history of saving and rehabbing historic downtown buildings.
In quick order, DSDC put on a new roof and beefed up the structure of the building, which had suffered years before when the adjacent building was demolished, leaving little support on the east side of the structure. A type of stucco sheeting that had been applied at some point within past twenty or so years had pulled away from the original brick walls, allowing moisture to become trapped between the stucco product and the brick. DSDC hired Thomas and Parker Waterproofing to pull the impaired stucco off, repair the sizeable cracks underneath, and repoint (repair and re-mortar) the bricks.
Along the way, some of the building’s history was uncovered. Two ‘racing stripes’ of black tiles at the top of the building and larger black tiles on the facade were exposed, as were several window/door openings.
After repairs are made and cracks stabilized, a waterproofing product will be applied, and the building should be strong and straight for another 50 years!