Courthouse, one of the most endangered historic sites in the state

LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. (AP) — A historic old courthouse on the northeast corner of the state is at risk of making history.

Sitting in a two-acre public square in Lake Providence, the structure of the former East Carroll Parish Courthouse has deteriorated over the years due to lack of use and maintenance.

The monument has been vacant for the past decade, but East Carroll Parish preservation specialist Cassie Condrey Lensing said the historic building has the potential to be repurposed for a variety of uses in the region.

“It’s a really nice space,” Lensing said. “I think it would be an amazing arts and music hall. Our local high school, General Trass, has an amazing dance program and I kind of dreamed there would be a space for the kids to practice music. There are a number of things that could be.

The Old East Carroll Parish Courthouse was added to the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of state’s most endangered places in 2018. The building, named one of the most endangered sites in the state, was built in 1901 by William Stanton, a prominent Vicksburg architect. who practiced in Mississippi from 1866 until his death in 1908. The impressive Richardsonian Romanesque building features a cast-iron staircase leading from the black-and-white marble-panelled entrance hall to a spacious courtroom at the second floor.

But there is a story to the old building that matches its beauty.

The courthouse was the site of the last hanging of a female prisoner in Louisiana, February 8, 1935. Julia Williams, a black woman, was convicted of the June 1934 stabbing death of Elliott Wilson, a farmer from the Transylvania region. The 1942 execution of Toni Henry in the Calcasieu Parish electric chair is the only death sentence for a female prisoner in Louisiana since.

A new courthouse for the parish was built in 1938, as part of the Public Works Administration, and is located adjacent to the historic courthouse. The new three-story courthouse is adorned with clean, classic details including heavy fluting, beveled corners, and horizontal lines carved into the limestone to accentuate the windows.

The old courthouse was then used as offices by the parish authorities.

The building is located in a new Cultural District and is part of a National Registry Timeshare District, making it eligible for state and federal tax credits for potential buyers.

Lensing said she believes in preserving historic spaces because they hold our stories.

“They really show us who we used to be and how we could be again,” Lensing said. “There is obviously a lot to learn in this part of the country, in this region.”

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