Historic Downtown Ruston Walking Tour
This tour of Ruston, Louisiana is a work in progress
If you plan to walk the tour, you may park at City Hall, at any of several free city lots, or in any designated on-street parking space. Street parking has a 2-hour limit. This block was donated to the town by its founder Robert E. Russ. Ruston College, a private institution, was built on this site in late 1880s. It was destroyed by fire in 1893. Ruston High School was constructed here, serving as a school until the early 1960s when new schools replaced it. The City Hall – Civic Center complex was built on the site in the mid-1970s.
In the early 1900s, this building housed the town's Methodist church. When a larger church was constructed one block to the east, the steeple and other portions of the building were removed. The only visible remnant of the church are the arched windows on the north side of the building.
The former Ruston USO occupies one side of a party-wall commercial building that has always contained two stores. A restrained example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the USO is surrounded by other commercial buildings that fit the style of an early 20th century historic downtown. One story in height, the masonry building was constructed in the 1920’s and converted to a USO in 1943. The USO provided entertainment, refreshment, and a home-like environment for servicemen and women stationed in the area, or passing through on the railroad during World War II. The building has experienced some alterations through the years but recently underwent a historic restoration to recreate the original feel and look of the building. Thus, its National Register integrity and eligibility remain intact. The building is currently owned by Kevin Hawkins, who operates Hawkins Photography Studio in that location.
The Harris family was engaged in operating hotels in downtown Ruston in the first decades of the 1900s. The building was constructed as an annex for a larger hotel a block to the south. The upstairs, which included a doctor's office and rooms for boarders, is essentially unchanged from those days. Note the doctor's name painted on the last upstairs window. The balcony outside the second story door has been removed. The ground floor has always been occupied by offices and retail shops, including a Jitney Jungle grocery store in the 1940s-50s. The building owners have plans to fully restore the structure, including upstairs living areas.
The Lincoln Parish Bank was created in 19_____ to compete against the Ruston State Bank across the street.
Built in 1910 on a site the bank had occupied since 1896, the two-story masonry structure is decorated in Beaux Arts style. The building features a stone facade combining the idea of a Roman triumphal arch with that of a temple front. A clock was installed on the facade in 1927. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It was also declared a contributing property of Downtown Ruston Historic District at the time of its creation in 2017.
Seaborn J. Harris was a well-known businessman and hotelier in north Louisiana. His hotel in Ruston was the most prominent structure in town for decades. The Harris Hotel was located on this corner. Although the hotel burned in 1927, much of the ground floor was saved. Note the steel columns on the front that remain from the original building. Hotel rooms were available upstairs while the downstairs has always contained retail shops. The corner establishment operated as Ruston Drug Company for many years.
After the first Harris Hotel burned down in 1927, the Harrises moved their operation to this structure. Known alternately as the Harris Hotel and Hotel Ruston, the upper floor later served as a hospital. During World War II, it housed officers running the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Camp Ruston. From 1975 into the 90s, the ground floor housed Stow’s Bar, a popular gathering place, especially for college students. The upstairs windows are boarded up and with good reason. Some local residents swear the old hospital upstairs is haunted! Numerous accounts of odd noises and ghostly apparitions have convinced many that patients of the hospital still linger on the premises.
This block of Park Avenue was originally called “Brick Row” because it was the only block where the first buildings were all constructed of brick. When the first lots were sold to businesses moving to the new town of Ruston, buyers were informed their businesses had to be of brick to create a positive impression on those passing through on the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Pacific Railroad. It continues to be the showcase of the Historic District.
John Tom Sisemore was a deputy United States marshal renowned for tracking down violators of federal law, especially moonshiners, whiskey runner, post office robbers, and other offenders. To deal with nightly bouts of drunken gunfire and illegal whiskey sales, Ruston hired Deputy United States Marshal John Tom Sisemore as a police officer and later as police chief in the late 1890s. Sisemore frequently arrested a notorious bootlegger named Frank Mullins for federal and city liquor violations. Sisemore and Mullins met in a final showdown on this corner on the stormy evening of February 26, 1898. At about 8:00p.m., a string of gunshots filled the air and Sisemore prowled the rain-dampened streets in search of the culprit. Sisemore encountered Mullins on this corner. In an exchange of gunfire, Mullins was wounded by Sisemore’s shotgun and died at a nearby boarding house. Sisemore would later be ambushed and killed in apparent retaliation. Sisemore’s brief career and death helped mold Ruston’s path into the new century. The attitudes towards alcohol and lawlessness in Ruston’s early days endured for decades. The city would remain "dry" for nearly 75 more years before legal alcohol was sold in the 1970’s.
originally part of the railroad grounds first trees plants Pierian roses fountain
one of the first stores to open in Ruston in 1884..............................................
An east-west railroad across north Louisiana was started before the Civil War. When the conflict broke out in 1861, the line from the Mississippi River had only reached Monroe, 30 miles east of here. The war and the economic hardships of the Reconstruction Era delayed the line's completion until 1884, the year Ruston was incorporated. City founder Robert E. Russ sold the land to bring the railroad through and give birth to the town of Ruston. The Illinois Central Railroad eventually acquired the line. Today it is operated by the Kansas City Southern RR.
Ruston's first fire station was completed in 1907 on property donated by the city's founder Robert Edwin Russ.
The Lewis House was built for businessman W.J. Lewis and his family in 1902. The Lewis House is architecturally significant as one of Ruston's landmark residences. The home is distinguished among Ruston's older residences because of its size, age, intricate massing, and the variety and quality of its details. The home has Tuscan columns and a relatively dynamic asymmetrical composition consisting of a wraparound gallery set between two protruding gabled wings. The massing is further enlivened by a second story porch and a separate gallery gable marking the entrance. The home features two Palladian motifs. It was owned by the Lewis family until 1987.
The site of Ruston's city hall for decades, this building previously served as a livery stable. ...................... The two-cell jail was located in a small structure behind this building.
Constructed in 19.......
The museum is located in the Kidd-Davis House which dates to 1885, one year after the founding of Ruston. In that year, Leroy Madison Kidd, a merchant from the neighboring town of Vernon in Jackson Parish, moved his business to the recently established railroad town of Ruston. He bought an entire block from Robert E. Russ, city founder and namesake of Ruston. Kidd then sold the property to Charles H. Harris, who started construction of a house in 1886. Either during construction or soon after, Harris sold the property and the new house to Captain Milton B. Kidd, brother and business partner of the original owner of the lot. The Kidd family occupied the house until 1921 when it was sold to the Robert Wesley Davis family. The museum interior has been restored to its turn of the 20th century appearance. Exhibits featuring local history occupy the upper floor.