Newly Released Video Showcases the Effort to Save the Old Benevolent Society Building in St. Francisville
Since 2018, the West Feliciana Historical Society and members of the Order of Eastern Star have been working on an initiative to preserve and restore the Old Benevolent Society building. The effort, which started with having the building listed on Louisiana’s Most Endangered Places List, has come a long way since then with a successful fundraiser, completion of a Historic American Buildings Survey and growing community support. The Old Benevolent Society Restoration (OBSR) Committee and the Historical Society are now pleased to release a documentary video which summarizes the history and the restoration effort. Both groups hope the video will raise awareness of the historical significance of the building in local history.
Produced by Mr. Kevin McQuarn with support from the West Feliciana Parish Schools Technology Department, the video is entitled: The Story of a Building, and can be viewed at the link https://vimeo.com/392040402. The link can also be found on OBSR Committee Facebook and Instagram sites, as well as on the West Feliciana Historical Society website. Mr. McQuarn is no stranger to West Feliciana, having produced several other video documentaries about significant programs and projects in the Parish.
Sara Wilson-Rogers, President of the OBSR Committee notes, “Since our very first meeting the committee has worked tirelessly to make sure we do everything possible to save the building. The West Feliciana Historical Society has supported us every step of the way and we are grateful for that support. This documentary helps to show the painstaking work that is being undertaken and why it is so important to our history. We sincerely hope that it will encourage people to get involved in a meaningful way.”
The West Feliciana Historical Society partnered with the Old Benevolent Society Restoration Committee in their efforts to save St. Francisville’s oldest burial insurance lodge. Joint conversations about saving the building have been going on for quite some time, but in 2018, the effort gained momentum with the listing of the building as an endangered place. According to Dot Temple, President of the West Feliciana Historical Society, “The old building warrants being saved for the part benevolent societies played in local African Americans' history and for what it can offer as a meeting place and a museum to house artifacts, pictures, and documents that tell African Americans’ story in West Feliciana.”
Temple further notes, “Our organization has been delighted to support this project and is excited about the video documentary which complements our exhibit: Saving the Intangible Culture, Old Benevolent Societies. The West Feliciana Historical Society’s support of this project remains steadfast and we want greatly for this endeavor to become a reality.” Temple and the Historical Society Board extend an invitation to all to visit the Museum located on Ferdinand Street to see the special exhibit and view the new video.
Highlights of the video include commentary from OBSR Committee members Ms. Wilson-Rogers, Mr. Cliff Deal, West Feliciana Historical Society Museum curator, Mr. James Dart, architect and preservationist, and students from West Feliciana High School who assisted with the Historic American Buildings Survey under the guidance of Mr. Dart.
Monetary support is key to completion of the restoration/rehab project and to that end, Ms. Temple and Ms. Wilson-Rogers encourage folks to consider making a monetary donation.
Once restored, the committee would like to add professional exhibits to tell the story of the Old Benevolent Society and its part in African American history, thus expanding the role of the building to that of museum, a place open to the public for local festivals, events and educational children’s programs – a must see stop in St. Francisville.
The public is invited to follow the progress of this effort on Facebook (Save the Old Benevolent Society) and Instagram (obsr2018). Donations are now being accepted and can be made via PayPal at www.paypal.me/savetheOBSbuilding, or by mail to OES/OBSR Committee at P.O. Box 2365, St. Francisville, LA 70775.
For more information about the Old Benevolent Society Restoration effort in St. Francisville, please contact Sara Wilson-Rogers at 225-937-3004 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Louisiana Most Endangered Places Program and List, visit: https://www.lthp.org/properties/most-endangered/.