City of Shreveport
No state or territory in the Trans-Mississippi
West suffered more than Louisiana. 1
Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on
April 9, 1865, and the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy
May 21 of that year, soldiers and civilians alike robbed
the government depots in
leaving official documents and goods strewn through the
city’s streets. A troop of soldiers from
Missouri entered the city to restore order.
They collected the documents in the courthouse, and
General Francis J. Herron’s Federal forces cleaned up
the streets. On
June 10, 1865 local slaves heard their freedom declared.
Black Federal soldiers marched into town, as they made
up most of the Federal force that occupied the city for
the next ten years. It wasn’t until
January 29, 1876 that the Federal forces were withdrawn.
railroad had been completed in 1866,
and the city became the hub
of railroad transportation,
as it gave access to Dallas, Little Rock, and St. Louis.
The Vicksburg, Shreveport, & Pacific Railroad built a
bridge crossing the
at Cotton Street and giving access to the East. Trains
also ran from Shreveport to New Orleans.
The demands from the railroad opened up sawmills for the
milling of crossties and elements for bridge
construction. Lumber became an economic mainstay
In 1868 Caddo Parish sent two black delegates,
Caesar C. Antoine and Union Army Captain James H. Ingraham, to the convention for the state constitution.
During Reconstruction, Caddo Parish also sent other
black legislators, including Moses Sterrett, William
Harper, and Rev. John Boyd.
Congress’s Reconstruction Acts, along with the
ratification of the 1868 Louisiana state constitution,
gave blacks the majority of votes.
were refused the vote, and white Democrats continued to
control the town.
North Louisiana seemed to have the worst violence with some planters threatening
to discharge their tenants if they voted Republican.
One black man in Caddo Parish who voted Republican was
subsequently killed. In 1868 organizations like the
Knights of the White Camellia formed, and many of the
prominent men of the parish became members of the White
League, which intimidated Republicans into abandoning
Moses H. Crowell, who had commanded some of the Federal
Shreveport, became the first Republican mayor on May 26,
Henry Adams, an ex-slave of Caddo Parish and a
Union Army veteran, organized a committee to investigate
the crimes committed against freedmen. He proposed that
the federal government give blacks an area to which they
could migrate or passages back to
His appeal to President Hayes failed, but he continued
his work. In 1879 he inspired the Exodusters, although
he himself never went, as he felt Africa was better for
During the Reconstruction years, the new and
better buildings were built, and new suburbs opening up
at the western edge of town. When the Shreveport City
Railroad Company laid the first mule-drawn streetcar
lines in 1870, it ran along Texas Street, Common Street,
and Texas Avenue to the community boundaries.
map from 1872 shows that Shreveport was becoming
industrial with sawmills, planing mills, foundries, a
plant making cotton gins, a cottonseed oil mill, and
iron and brass machine casings. An ice plant standing at
this time was the first to commercially use natural gas.
Shreveport’s C. C. Antoine became lieutenant
governor in 1872. The
yellow fever epidemic claimed the
lives of 759 people when it plagued the city for eighty
plus days in 1873, and in that same year, the Texas &
Pacific Railroad extended its lines to Dallas.
In 1880 the first telephone exchange was opened. In 1887
the city adopted the street and block number system.
The Inn Hotel, located in the 600 block of Milam
Street, advertised that it was located in the theatrical
district of Shreveport. In the past, there have been
several theaters: Electric Theater at 516 Texas Street,
Theatorium at 206 Texas, Dreamland at 218 Texas, Palace
Theater at 220 Texas, Queen Theater at 401 Texas, Bijou
at 412 Texas, Crystal Theater at 611 Milam Street, Musee
at 625 Milam, and the Victoria and Iris Theaters on
Louisiana Avenue. The Avenue and Star Theaters in the
1000 block of Texas Avenue catered to the blacks who
were segregated at the other theaters.
The Gaiety Theater, which opened in 1857, was
located above a saloon in the 400 block of Milam Street.
It closed when the Grand Opera House opened.
In the 1870’s and 1880’s, Shreveporters gathered at
Tally’s Opera House at 216-218 Milam Street for
theatrical performances. The opera house had seating for
about 150. The house had no carpeting or dressing rooms;
the adjoining dentist’s offices served as dressing
rooms. There were plain wooden seats, and candles and
lamps were used as footlights.
The Grand Opera House, built in 1888 at the
northwest corner of Texas and Edward Street, was a
Victorian style, red brick building that could seat
1,500 people, and when it opened, the Gaiety Theater
closed. The play Carmen was performed at the
opera house on December 22, 1896, and the audience also
witnessed the first known showing of a motion picture.
It also had a production of Ben Hur where live
horses were on the stage, running on a treadmill. In the
production of Faust, the devil pulled out his
wand; as he shook it, it made terrible lighting and
thunder, which seemed so real to one patron that she
believed they would never be able to make it home in
such a terrible storm.
The Grand Opera House had gilded box seats and
carpeting. Lillian Russell, Madame Modjeska, and Sara
Bernhardt appeared on the stage here.
The Grand Opera House was torn down in 1926.
In 1887 the McNeil Street Pumping Station
opened, being the first to supply water under a
franchise arrangement. The company also built a sewer
In 1890 a commercial electric streetcar trolley
system, the first of its kind in the state, began
operation in Shreveport. It became convenient to live
on the outskirts of town and commute to work. Also in
that year the fire department became professional and
tapped into the new water supply, allowing for them to
be more effective.
Iron columns to support buildings, electricity, stamped
metal cornices on shops, steam heating, and gas and
electrical lighting entered the city by the mid-1890s.
The downtown streets were paved, starting in
1897. Brick paving covered the ground on Crockett from
Market to Spring Streets and on Texas Avenue from
Commerce to Jordan Streets.25
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