Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana

Date added: May 19, 2023 Categories: Louisiana House Mansion
Front elevation looking northeast (2011)

Local businessman Hiram Bradford built and lived in Myrtlewood.

Hiram F. Bradford was born to James A. Bradford and Mary Jane (Cotton) Bradford at upper Fish Creek in Grant Parish in 1873. Before the Civil War, James Bradford, Hiram's father, had large land and cattle holdings but all was lost as a result of the war. After the war, he eventually recouped his losses. Hiram Bradford grew up working on his father's farm and for a while clerked in a mercantile establishment in Georgetown, in Grant Parish. Entrepreneurial from an early age, by the 1890's he had become a serious businessman in his own right, establishing the Bradford-Kees Lumber Company in Winn Parish. (Bradford-Kees supplied the pilings and wood that went into the first Alexandria-Pineville Bridge built in 1902.) While at Winnfield, Hiram was a founder of the first bank established there and helped finance it during ensuing depressions. In 1914 he sold Bradford-Kees and began the Elton Lumber Company in Jeff Davis Parish. While at Elton, he was a staunch supporter of public education and served as a member of the Parish School Board. He was a founder of the first Baptist Church of Elton, and it was largely through his efforts and contributions that the community erected its first church building. In 1920 he sold Elton Lumber, relocated to Pineville, and built his home Myrtlewood.

According to his obituary, Mr. Bradford "immediately became active in the civic and business affairs of the community" after settling in Pineville. He formed Bradley-Sherrill Wholesale Grocery and the Bradley-Pierce Chevrolet Dealership and the Bradford Insurance Agency. He also began dealing in real estate and in 1929 organized the Greenwood Development Company which, also according to his obituary, became one of the largest concerns of its kind in the state with holdings in Alexandria and Pineville, including Greenwood Cemetery and the Rapides Golf and Country Club. He was a board member and chairman of the board of directors of the Baptist Hospital in Alexandria, and was an active campaigner and a liberal contributor to its expansion and development. Mr. Bradford was a member of the board of trustees of Louisiana College for several years before being elected Chairman of the Board, a position he held for more than a decade. He continued his active membership on that board and his intense interest in education until his death in 1948. Only months before his death, according to his obituary, Mr. Bradford was "most active in the bond election for funds to establish a high school in Pineville".

At a time when it was most critically needed, Mr. Bradford appears to have created economy and prosperity in many diverse corners of his community. He shared his success with not only his many business partners but with uncounted thousands who found employment, security, and opportunity in the jobs that were the result of his many successful business ventures.

Post des Rapides (the site of modern-day Pineville) on the North Bank of the Red River was founded by the French in 1722 at "the place called the Great Rapid... where the river ceases to be navigable four or five months of the year" to protect white settlers navigating the river from Indian harassment while portaging the rapids there. It was the first colonial military establishment in what is now Rapides Parish and the beginning of permanent white settlement of the region. Throughout the French colonial period, there was never more than a small detachment of soldiers at Post des Rapides; and when France ceded Louisiana to Spain in 1762, there were only 51 persons living there.

Under Spanish rule, the settlement grew, and by 1799, and the end of Spanish rule, there were 760 persons living in 112 separate habitations in the settlement. However, in the waning years of Spanish rule, the last commandants of the post moved to more inviting farmlands across the river. Apparently, many of the settlers followed; as the population of the settlement declined dramatically and it would take more than a century and the construction of a bridge connecting Pineville with Alexandria before the population of the village would again rise to that of 1799.

Around 1805 the settlement was named Pineville. New settlers came to the lower (Alexandria) side of the river with its rich alluvial soils and seasonal flooding for the opportunity to get rich growing cotton. Life on the high side of the river was fundamentally different. With its poorer albeit cheaper ground, settlers farmed mostly for subsistence and raised cattle or cut timber for income. Huge virgin longleaf pine trees covered the area for miles. With the advent of the Steamboat, around 1815, trade was opened with New Orleans and entrepreneurs from the area supplied timber, cattle, and hides to that boomtown market in addition to cordwood and pine knots for Steamboat fuel. The village eventually developed into a center for commerce and banking for the region north of the river extending as far north as Columbia in Caldwell Parish.

War came to Louisiana when, shortly after declaring secession in January of 1861; Governor Moore put forth the call for volunteers to join the fight. Eleven companies of young men from Rapides Parish answered the call and soon joined the Armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee. Having sent its young men and arms to the front, Rapides Parish was defenseless when, in the spring of 1863 and again in 1864, the area was invaded and occupied by Union forces. During the 1863 offensive, General Nathaniel P. Banks and 40,000 troops advanced on Alexandria from Opelousas via Bayou Boueff with orders to "destroy public works and machinery at Alexandria"- burning and pillaging along their way before finally withdrawing to join the siege at Vicksburg. In March, 1864 Banks again advanced - this time with a much larger force including more than twenty gunboats and transport vessels. The objective this time was Shreveport, and ultimately Texas. Banks bivouacked his force in Alexandria before pushing on toward Shreveport in April. At Mansfield on April 8 and the next day at Pleasant Hill, Banks' troops were met and defeated by Confederates under the command of General Zachary Taylor. Union troops retreated (burning all the homesteads along the way) and, in an act of revenge, set fire to the entire town of Alexandria as they continued their retreat southward. Written accounts of the carnage are horrific. As they withdrew under the pursuit of Confederate forces, the wanton destruction continued as plantations with all their outbuildings, fences, livestock and food stores were burned or confiscated. Union sympathizers suffered a similar fate at the hands of the pursuing Confederates. The extent of the resulting carnage is evidenced in the fact that, for years after the war, maps of the state referred to the area as "the blackened area". The entire region of Central Louisiana was ruined as a consequence of these actions. It is impossible now to fully appreciate the extent of the physical and economic devastation reaped upon the area by the war. Through the years of occupation and reconstruction that followed, and well into the twentieth century, the region continued its desperate struggle to recover.

The advent of the railroad in the 1890s brought to a close the era of the steamboat by affording cheaper access to distant markets, and led to the exploitation of the major natural resource of the area, its timber. What is often referred to as the "timber boom" around the turn of the century provided employment for local men, who for a short time were gainfully employed in the mill towns that sprung up in the virgin pine forest, until all the timber was clear cut, the land laid bare, the mill towns shut down, and they were forced to return to scratching out a meager living from the poor soil. The huge profits of yet another devastating enterprise went elsewhere.

The 20th century was a time of growth and development for the city of Pineville. With the completion of the bridge connecting Pineville and Alexandria in 1902, growth began in earnest and both communities benefited. The population of Pineville doubled in the ten years between 1900 and 1910 and redoubled again over the next decade. By the end of the century, the population was twenty-two times greater than in 1900. Early institutional development included the opening of Louisiana College and Central State Hospital in 1906.

Pineville indirectly benefitted from war when, in 1917, the U. S. War Department accepted the token lease of fifteen square miles of land outside Pineville and invested $5 Million to construct Camp Beauregard, one of thirteen training bases for soldiers bound for the trenches of France. In little over three months' time in the fall of 1917, 22,243 men arrived at Camp Beauregard for training. At the time, the population of the town of Pineville was less than 2,000. It was a time of great expansion but also great loss. During 1917 and 1918 epidemics of measles, influenza, and meningitis swept through the camp and the surrounding communities resulting in the deaths of many hundreds. It was said that 127 people died in a single night and that, at one point, the makeshift camp morgue housed 300 bodies. After the armistice in November 1918, it was said "quiet returned" to the area.

Institutional development continued as the Pinecrest Institution for the "feeble-minded" was opened in 1921, as were the V.A. Hospital c. 1930 and the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital in 1938.

When War came again in 1940, Camp Beauregard was reactivated and additional training camps were built in the area, including Camp Livingston in neighboring Tioga. From 1940 until the end of the war in 1945, over 500,000 troops passed through Camp Livingston alone. Again war brought challenges and opportunity in equal measure.

Among the major businesses choosing to locate in Pineville during the century were Colfax Creosoting Company in 1923, Central Louisiana Energy Company in 1948, Baker Manufacturing in 1954, Maxwell & Moore/Dresser Industrial Valve in 1961, Pineville Kraft/International Paper in 1966 and Proctor & Gamble in 1969. Infrastructure advancements included the addition of a second bridge connecting Pineville to Alexandria with the opening of the OK Allen Bridge in 1938, and a third bridge in 1960, the launching of a local newspaper, the Pineville News, in 1947, and the conversion of the airport at Esler Field into a regional municipal airport in 1960.

Today, in addition to hosting several significant industries, Pineville is a growing community that serves as the business and retail center for many smaller, surrounding communities. It offers a variety of retail, banking, medical, and hotel services to serve its residents, neighbors and visitors.

Building Description

Myrtlewood is situated on a knoll overlooking a large expanse of landscaped lawn. The setting is reminiscent of an English Manor House taking advantage of the highest point in the vicinity and allowing for an expanse of lawn to the front. Originally a rural setting, the owner selected the site from among the hundreds of acres he purchased in 1919, a high point with access and well back from adjacent streets allowing for rising views of the house across wide expanses of landscaped lawn. The house and its setting combine to make a grand architectural statement about the wealth and position of its owner.

Access to the property is via driveways from Military Highway and Myrtlewood Drive with the primary access being from Military Highway. One enters the property passing through iron gates flanked by brick piers, proceeding on, passing through a crepe myrtle allee (thus the name), and onto the lawn at the front of the house.

The footprint of the two-story house's main block is nearly square; this central block has extensions on all four sides. The extensions include a grand two-story portico to the front (south), a smaller one-story portico to the east, (originally) a framed lower gallery with sleeping porch above to the rear (north), and, (originally), a framed two-level space and a one-story porte-cochere' to the west. The floor plan of the first floor of the central block includes a large living room occupying the front half of the block with the dining room, a small breakfast room (possibly a butler's pantry originally), the kitchen, pantry, and closet to the rear. Most of the first floor of the rear extension (originally open), now serves as a sunroom, however, a small portion on one side was always enclosed as a first-floor bath. The first floor of the west enclosed extension originally served as a receiving area for the attached porte-cochere. Upstairs in the central block are three bedrooms (two to the front and one to the rear), a single bathroom with access to the rear bedroom and to the central stair hall, and a storage room. The second floor of both extensions (north and west) served as sleeping porches. There is a small basement under the kitchen which may have originally housed a furnace.

Observing the front elevation, the facade of the central block is divided into three bays by prominent brick pilasters at the outer edges and the concrete pilasters of the portico at the center. The symmetry of the fenestration is a bit off due to elaboration of the entrance with sidelights and transom making that opening noticeably larger than the windows. The outer two bays of the central structure are symmetrical. Central to the facade is the prominent and well-proportioned grand portico with its colossal tapered concrete columns and pilasters in the Doric order with capitals of indeterminate order supporting the entablature, banded architrave, and cornice of the portico. In addition to the unusual scrollwork of its capital, each column exhibits an abacus, astragal, and neck. The columns are supported by short brick piers. The pediment of the front portico features a centrally positioned oculus with a keystone. The openings of the facade feature slightly projecting cast concrete lintels and windowsills. All of the concrete elements of the house are painted. Windows are one-over-one double-hung wood sash. The entrance is a single-paneled door with glass sidelights and a three-piece glass transom. The side extensions originally included a one-story portico on the east side and, on the west side, an enclosed, two-story, frame area to which a one-story porte-cochere was attached. These extensions were well-proportioned and visually balanced to the central massing. During alterations around 1950, the first-floor receiving area and the porte-cochere' of the west extension were enclosed to create interior space. The roof is hipped with intersecting gable roofs of the extensions. The roof covering is typical modern composite shingles (originally the roof was covered in asbestos shingles). There are two prominent brick chimneys, one at the southwest corner of the central structure serving the back-to-back fireplaces in the living room and family room (the former receiving area). The second is at the northeast corner of the house and may have once serviced a furnace in the basement.

The east elevation features the smaller portico previously mentioned protecting a simpler side entrance, a single-paneled door with a single-piece glass transom. The portico is not centered on this elevation, being offset toward the front of the structure. The portico is a well-proportioned smaller version of the front portico with its cast concrete slightly tapered columns with cast bases on brick piers. Although simpler than those of the front portico and without capitals, these smaller columns feature astragal, necking and abacus. The entablature of this portico is simpler than that of the grand portico, lacking the banding of the architrave and being set directly into the facade without pilasters. The portico features a pediment scaled to its proportions. The openings of this elevation feature the same lintel and sill treatment as on the front. There is no symmetry of openings on the east elevation of the central structure, due in large part to the location of the stairs along this wall of the living room. Windows occur singly and in pairs.

The view of the rear elevation is dominated by the two-level extension. It is frame construction with the exception of the eastern 20% of the first floor which is masonry and houses a bathroom and closet. The remainder of the first floor of this extension (originally an open gallery), in now a sun room having been enclosed with large sliding glass windows (see alterations below). The rear entrance is a single full-glass door with a single-light transom. A second door at the west end of the sunroom is also a single full-glass door with a single-light transom. The area of the rear extension extends from the east end of the central structure about two-thirds of the way across. On its upper level, this area is enclosed by one-over-one close-set double-hung wood sash windows above a short paneled wall. This upper area served as a sleeping porch. One window of the second-floor rear bedroom pierces the brick wall beside this porch.

The west elevation was originally a view of the port-cochere with its concrete columns on tall brick piers supporting an entablature and pediment (like that of the portico of the east elevation). Beyond the port-cochere was a framed, two-level extension. This area was enclosed by upper and lower rows of close-set double-hung wood sash windows above short paneled walls. Alteration has changed the view of this elevation.

Prominent features of the interior of the house include an elaborately carved white marble mantelpiece, bi-fold beveled glass French doors between the living room and the dining room, beveled glass French doors between the dining room and the family room, cast iron stair rail on the lower flight of stairs in the living room and at the top of the stairwell on the second floor, and built-in cupboards in the dining room.

The most obvious alteration occurred after ownership changed hands in 1949. In order to expand the interior space of the house, the new owners "took in" the first-floor receiving area and porte-cochere on the west side of the house. To accomplish this they extended the rear wall of the receiving area to the western extent of the porte-cochere. From there they framed a wall along the line of the outer edge of the porte-cochere columns extending it to intersect another wall extended from the southwest corner of the west extension. an extension of the extension's front wall. A low-pitched roof was built to tie in the existing porte-cochere roof to the new front wall. The new structure was finished in stucco and metal casement windows were installed. As part of this alteration, two openings flanking the chimney on the west wall of the central structure were closed, a door originally servicing the receiving area on that side of the house from the living room and a multi-paned window at the southwest corner of the living room visible in a historic photo. Historic photos also reveal the floors of both porticos (front and northeast) were originally wood. They are now quarry tile possibly over concrete.

Other evidence of alteration is seen in the area of the kitchen. The use of wood paneling matching the paneling used to finish the interior of the "new room" created by the alteration of the receiving room and porte-cochere' in 1949 confirms the kitchen was altered, probably at the same time. It is not possible to be certain, but the area now used as a breakfast nook might well have originally been a butler's pantry. The large sliding glass windows of the first floor of the rear extension were an alteration to enclose the originally open gallery. Historic photos reveal the louvered shutters covering the sidelights of the main entrance and the paneling covering the transom there and at the secondary entrance on the east side to be alterations. What is now a large picture window at the northwest corner of the dining room was almost certainly a divided window originally. Additionally, on the interior, the present owner relates that the crown molding in the living room and dining room is an alteration, part of work done around 1990.

The two-story garage, located just beyond the northwest corner of the house, is original to the property - as evidenced in historic photos. While the lower portion of the structure served as a garage for the family's automobiles, upstairs was living quarters for servants with access gained via exterior iron stairs on the north wall of the structure. Originally, automobiles accessed the garage through the porte-cochere on the southwest side of the house. The previously mentioned alteration of the porte-cochere necessitated alteration of the garage. In order to retain access to the service building, the drive was re-routed around the east side of the house and the east wall of the garage was opened to allow access. The original garage doors on the south wall of the garage were removed and the space filled in with brick. The area between the house and the garage is now a two-level brick patio probably added in conjunction with the alteration to the porte-cochere. An interesting feature of the patio is the incorporation to two concrete columns surmounted with nautical lamps. Closer examination reveals these are the shafts of the columns that once supported the pediment of the porte-cochere.

The two identical gate posts at the entrance gate to the property are original and date to the time of construction. Each is composed of a brick pier the same color as the house. Each has a painted concrete band at the top. That band is surmounted by a decorative concrete ornament rising from a thick concrete base that is wider than the pier beneath it. The ornament is in three parts: 1) a square base that is smaller than the overhanging base beneath it, 2) an element suggestive of a pyramid, except that its sides are curved, and 3) a large ball atop the pyramid. One pier carries a non-historic sign displaying the property's name.

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana View of drive from gate looking north, northwest (1925)
View of drive from gate looking north, northwest (1925)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Front view of house looking northwest (2011)
Front view of house looking northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Early front view of house looking north, northwest (1930s)
Early front view of house looking north, northwest (1930s)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Front view looking north, northwest (2011)
Front view looking north, northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Front door looking north, northwest (2011)
Front door looking north, northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Column & entrance detail looking north (2011)
Column & entrance detail looking north (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Column capital detail looking northwest (2011)
Column capital detail looking northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana Southeast corner looking northwest (2011)
Southeast corner looking northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana East side elevation looking northwest (2011)
East side elevation looking northwest (2011)

Myrtlewood house, Pineville Louisiana East side portico column detail looking southwest (2011)
East side portico column detail looking southwest (2011)