In what has become a new holiday tradition over the last five years, Alexandria’s Garden District Neighborhood Foundation, the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission, and the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau have teamed together again to present a Holiday Tour of Homes on Saturday, December 15th, from 1:00 to 5:00pm.
Four homes and St. James Episcopal Church will be open for the tour in the historic Garden District, each with individual history and architectural character. Tour participants begin their tour at St. James Episcopal Church located on Murray Street, where they can park their car, pick up tickets, and hop on the “Spirit of Alexandria” trolleys. Featured homes include The Weiss-Story-Kirzner House at 2301 Jackson Street, The Khamphouang House at 2303 Albert Street, The Raxdale-Davidson House at 1921 Jackson Street, and The Snow House at 2530 Jackson Street.
The Weiss-Story-Kirzner House
On the eve of World War One, planners at the Security Development Company submitted a large plat for the Popular Grove addition along Jackson Street in the growing neighborhoods west of downtown. Shortly afterwards, Morris and Hannah Weiss—1888 Jewish immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian empire—bought lots in 1915 and constructed in 1927 a beautiful Tudor inspired Italianate brick manor home. Original landscaping of stately Magnolia trees line one side of the property and a variety of fruit trees including banana, fig, and peach trees filled out a placid Southern garden. For over fifty years, the Weiss family made their home at the coroner of Jackson Street and what was in the past Elizabeth Street. A rare concrete street sign still sits in the corner of the yard marking that now extinct designation. Morris Weiss owned the Weiss and Goldring clothing store. The store originally opened in 1899 at Many, and then moved into downtown Alexandria in1907. The 1940 census reported that Weiss worked 54 hour weeks. For generations, the store served customers at Desoto and Third Streets. In 1973, the business became an anchor store at the Alexandria Mall.
Esquire magazine has named the specialty establishment in their top 100 list of men’s stores in America. With knowledge of German, Hungarian, and English, the family of five brought a cosmopolitan love of architecture, art, and literature to the city. In 1965, Ernest Story and his wife Lynn purchased the home from the Weiss heirs and that family lived in the home for over fifty years. Story led the Boy Scouts in Central Louisiana and his second wife, Alice, wrote memorable columns and legendary reviews of cultural happenings for the Town Talk newspaper. In 2018, Miriam Rubin Kirzner purchased the home, becoming only the third owner in almost one hundred years. Her careful renovations have restored this historical gem to its former grandeur.
The Khamphouang House
Nestled on a large property lot, this beautiful home is a classic American Bungalow. Built in the first decade of the 20th century, the home reflects the gracious living of the late Victorian period. The imposing front gable and large columns shelter a spacious porch. Tucked away in the back is a distinctive bay window. The high ceilings and built-in seating inside the living spaces are further examples of the Bungalow type which had its origins in India and made its way to the South by way of California. Henry Aertker and family owned the land in the early 20th century. W. Patrick Aertker, a descendant, served as an executive with the Home Building and Loan Company in Alexandria and may have had a hand in the construction. Other owners included the Hudson, Pearce, Stafford, Judge Hooe, and Peach families. John H. Peach, Jr. lived in the home during the 1950s and worked as legal counsel to the Continental South Railroad. His wife, Lucille, headed the adult education unit for the parish schools. James Allyn Cheneval obtained the property in 1964 and remained an owner for over fifty years. He and his wife Mamie Jo were parishioners at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church and participated in many civic and social organizations. The Cheneval heirs sold the home in 2016 to the Khamphouangs.
This prominent two-story Craftsman style residence, built in 1916, once was the bustling home of John C. and Josie Raxdale. Mr. “Jack” Raxdale held the esteemed position at the City of Alexandria as Superintendent of the Electric Lights and Waterworks plant and Municipal Street Railway. From the early part of the 20th Century until the 1920s, the city enjoyed streetcars roaming downtown and out to the Garden District. Raxdale owned a plumbing and steam heating company, which he turned over to a relative when he left the city and became president of Evangeline Gravel Company, later known as Alexandria Gravel. With the city adding dozens of new streets in the 1920s and 1930s, the company proved well-positioned under his leadership. The couple attended St. James Episcopal for all the big milestones in their lives. The couple raised nine children, including a son who darted between two parked cars and was struck in front of the home, surviving with only moderate injuries. Other children served in and survived World War II, a daughter became a teller at Rapides Bank, and another son worked at the State Highway department. Juanita, a daughter, married in 1959 the handsome Jules Davidson, Jr. Her husband became an assistant district attorney and made the house their home. His daughter Catherine became an attorney, worked for the city, and owns the home today.
The Snow House
Harry H. & Kate Evans built this Louisiana style home in 1929. He worked as the Cudahy Packing Company Manager and, after a lengthy illness, died in 1931. Mr. and Mrs. B.F. “Roger” Blessing moved to Alexandria and into the home for a short time the next year. Mr. and Mrs. Ralph B. Easton purchased the home from them and lived there for a few years. They attended St. James Episcopal Church. He passed away in 1933. Two years later, Mr. and Mrs. A. K. McLellan settled into the columned mansion, while he worked at the Veterans Administration hospital. Two newly married couples lived in the house for only a few years thereafter, one right after the other. Mr. and Mrs. Paul L. Hemenway became owners in 1936 and Dr. and Mrs. Lampert succeeded them in 1938. Mr. and Mrs. Windsor Thomas lived at the place in 1941 when their dog bit a TownTalk delivery boy. Thomas became a salesman with the Cummins and Howell firm and the couple lived there into the late 1940s. The Beatrice family moved in during the early 1950s. In 1955, J. Stader Richardson, a vice-president with the Guaranty Bank lived at the home. The Cothran, Jordan, Honeycutt, Bindursky, and Johnson families have lived in the home since the 1960s. Jeffrey and Trayce Snow are the current owners and have been at the address for ten years.
St. James Episcopal Church and School
The Church was first visited by The Right Reverend Leonidas Polk on April 4, 1839. Leonidas Polk, also known as the Fighting Bishop, returned in 1844, and on May 5th, confirmed eight people and officially organized the first congregation. St. James Episcopal Church was received into the Diocese of Louisiana on June 15, 1844, and the parish was incorporated on March 6, 1848. The building of the first church was delayed for several reasons, but the cornerstone was finally laid on All Saints Day 1851. The building was consecrated on June 13, 1854 by Bishop Polk. The first St. James Church was destroyed by fire during the retreat of the Union Army on May 13, 1864. The second church building was first used in October, 1871 but was destroyed shortly thereafter by a tornado in May 1872.
The cornerstone for the third church was laid on May 25, 1874 in a new location. The altar, chancel furniture, and pews from the second church were saved and used in this third church. On January 27, 1926, the cornerstone was laid for the fourth and present church. The bell from the third church (1888) was moved to the present church as well as the white memorial tablet which was the cornerstone of the third church. The Bishop’s cathedral and sanctuary light in use today came from the third church. St. James’ stained glass was executed by the Jacoby Art Glass Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and placed in position when the church was built in 1926. In April 1980, the formation of the new Diocese of Western Louisiana was completed, and the first Bishop was elected at St. James Episcopal Church. St. James has now become the traditional site for the election of bishops in this diocese. St. James has had 13 rectors in its more than 150 year history. The parish records from the very beginning to the present have survived the disasters that have destroyed church buildings, and they continue to be housed at St. James. These are perhaps the oldest records in Rapides Parish.
Tickets for the Holiday Tour of Homes are $20.00 in advance and are available for purchase online at www.GardenDistrictNeighborhood.org or in person at Southern Chic and Main Dish & More in Alexandria. You won’t want to miss enjoying the warm hospitality of your neighbors while connecting to Alexandria’s storied past in the spirit of the season at this delightful Cenla holiday tradition!