Beyond Back Street

By Jessica Gorman

Last week’s article focused on businesses that were located along Broadway, but what was behind them? This 1946 photograph provides a view from Pearl Street (also referred to as Putnam at times) looking towards Broadway and the rear of the old courthouse. In 1969, this entire area was cleared to make way for construction of the Civic Center. 

Sanborn Fire Insurance maps show the buildings that existed here between the years 1885 and 1923. In 1885, behind the jail, there is a calaboose, carpenter’s shop, and a couple of dwellings. Across Pearl (Putnam), was mostly just open space. In 1892, the only change that is noted is the addition of buildings labeled as stables between Pearl and Pine Streets. This area remains mostly unchanged, until 1923. By that time, the calaboose and dwellings behind the jail have been replaced by a building housing a machine shop on one side and hay and feed on the other. There are also a couple of small buildings labeled as offices. Along Pine Street the addition of Luck’s Blacksmith shop and a garage are indicated. (Also of note, first appearing on the 1903 map, across the alley that would become Gleason, is a row of houses that may be some of the first houses in Miller Quarters.)

For many years, much of this area was just open space. Eventually, buildings were constructed on either side with the center remaining open. This was used as a place to park teams and wagons. The wagons could be loaded from the rear of the stores. Later, latrines were built in the center of this open space and in the 1940s or early 1950s, the Cozy Theater, a black theater, was built along Gleason. It would have been just to the left of the photo. The Cozy operated until the late 1950s. According to an article written by Mrs. Juanita Agan, the seats from the Cozy were moved to First Baptist Church. In 1962, while being used as a warehouse for Kennon Construction Company, the building was destroyed by fire.

As previously stated, Luck’s Blacksmith Shop/Luck’s Manufacturing Company was located on Pine Street at the corner of Gleason and directly behind the Cozy. This is where the first school buses in Webster Parish were built. They also operated a grist mill and advertised fresh homemade meals. Minden Radiator and Sheet Metal Works was next to Luck’s Blacksmith Shop. In later years, Wilson’s Fish Market, Winch-Lift Trailer Company, and Stoney’s Welding Shop were located here. 

Also in this area, was a row of black businesses that were located behind the jail and are pictured on the right side of the photograph. At the time of the photograph, these businesses would have included the Underground Café and a grocery store. Some of the grocery stores that operated here were S & M Grocery & Market in 1957, Dixon’s Grocery in 1960, and Nesom Grocery in 1963. Other businesses located here at various times are Jack’s Taxi, City Comfort Station, Jackson Monument Works, Minden Casket Company, Coleman’s Snow Ball Stand, Smith’s Café, and King’s Shoe Shine Parlor. By 1967, these buildings were mostly vacant or being used for storage.

In the 1960s, Smith Café No. 1, Sidney’s Taxi, Booker’s Place, T B Booker Barber Shop, and Mary’s Beauty Shop were located across Gleason (behind the photographer). By 1967, only Smith Café was still in operation at this location. These businesses occupied some of the houses that made up Miller Quarters. A total of eight houses along Gleason were removed in 1970 to allow for the widening of the street.

This column is intended to share snippets of Webster Parish history. Please direct any questions or comments to or visit us at the museum. 

(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)