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Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society

Preservation awards go to area men

ALEXANDRIA — Two Southwest Louisiana residents won top state preservation awards at the 30th anniversary Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation conference. John Crook of Leesville was named Preservationist of the Year for his efforts to revitalize historic buildings in Leesville and form a preservation partnership with Fort Polk. Oliver “Rick” Richard of Lake Charles won a special preservation award for rehabilitating the old Cash & Carry Grocery warehouse at the corner of Broad Street and Enterprise Boulevard.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Donovan D. Rypkena of Place Economics in Washington, D.C. The topic was “Historic Preservation is Economic Development.”

Announcing the awards was A.C. Bourdier of Lake Charles, chairman of the award’s committee. Bourdier is a longtime preservationist and is active with the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society.
Crook, director of the Vernon Parish Tourism and Recreation Commission, was recognized for efforts that include erecting 15 historic markers, getting a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and forging a partnership between Leesville and Fort Polk by participating in the Army’s historic preservation program.

Richard’s award was in recognition of his having restored the 1936 Cash & Carry building to its original appearance. Accepting the award for Richard was his wife, Donna.
Also at the ceremony, the LTHP was awarded a $103,000 Wilson Challenge Grant, which will be matched by the state organization. The money will be used to finance a full-time field representative for Louisiana to help save endangered historic buildings.

In his keynote speech, Rypkena said historic preservation is real economic development on several levels. He said heritage tourism amounts to about a third of cultural travelers, who tend to spend more and stay longer than other tourists.  Rypkena said another economic variable is that preserving historic places is an important factor in quality of life.  “Historic buildings are long-term, sustainable assets,” he said. “Rehabilitating old buildings is the ultimate in sustainable development.”  Historic preservation also makes environmental sense as well. Rypkena said it is much more environmentally friendly to restore a building when compared with the energy expenditure it takes to tear it down and deposit the debris in a landfill.  He said it takes 35-50 years to recover from the carbon expended in tearing down an old building to build a new one, which probably won’t last more than 40 years.
Rypkena said historic preservation also meets every one of the criteria for “smart growth.”  “Historic preservation advances every smart growth principle,” he said.  He said adaptive reuse is also energy efficient.  He cited Dubuque, Iowa, for the adaptive reuse of its old warehouse district as the best example in the nation for such a program.