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Shreveport’s unfamed founder

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I’m not an historian by any means. Doesn’t that entail obtaining a college degree? If so, I most certainly do not qualify due to my obsession with alcohol, riding a wooden toy and poor life decisions. Obtaining a diploma from the Doyline Institute of Technology is all I’ve ever received, but that never hindered my desire to hunt for more information on the past.

Right after Thanksgiving in 2011, Shreveport lost a dedicated local historian, Eric J. Brock. I owe much of my knowledge on local history to this man and his lifelong commitment to unveiling mysteries surrounding our city’s origin. Mr. Brock wrote countless newspaper and magazine articles on Shreveport, including books that have established him as the Shreveport historian. Having never met the man, I still managed to find out much about him since I had a small “man crush” on him. I know he enjoyed cigars, scotch and walking his dogs; a perfect man. My admiration for him soon began to flow into the people that he seemed to admire. One particular person was Albert C. Steere.

A.C. Steere was a major developer for Shreveport’s South Highlands and Broadmoor area. Steere and the A.C. Steere Land Company first acquired some land in South Highland in 1912 through Bettie Parsons LaCals, a black woman who owned the large sect of property. By 1928, Steere had purchased all 79 acres she owned. The South Highlands Land Company was established under Steere in partnership with his friend Elias Goldstein. With the neighborhood’s annexation in 1927, Goldstein and Steere donated a large portion of land to the city, naming it Betty Virginia Park. This is named after their daughters, Betty Goldstein and Virginia Steere.

By 1923, Broadmoor was being developed on the land once occupied by Peter Youree’s massive cotton plantation. Steere honored Youree by naming Broadmoor’s main roadway Youree Drive. The neighborhood’s name was given by Steere’s secretary, Carrie Walker. She had once stayed at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado and thought this sect of land had a moor-like feel to it. I wonder how Steere’s wife felt about this…

Almost every street in South Highlands and Broadmoor can be credited to A.C. Steere himself. Unadilla, Oneonta, Monrovia, Albany, Ontario and Erie are named after Great Lakes and New York locations; Steere adored the Great Lakes, and his father was from New York. Steere loved the Northeast in general, naming Delaware, Pennsylvania and Atlantic after the region. Steere also named streets after his family’s origins; Dudley and Ockley are named after villages in England with ties to his ancestry. Steere named Thora Boulevard for Thora Spence, the wife of a friend of his. Grover Street is named for Edward G. Grover, the manager of Broadmoor Golf and Country Club. Steere later developed this into Querbes Park, naming it after former mayor Andrew Querbes and his family. Greenway Place is named for its location next to the golf course. Patton Avenue is for a friend of Steere’s, Patton Hawkins. Finley Drive is misspelled and named for Steere’s business associate and attorney J. Kenneth Findley. Zeke Street is named for Steere’s handyman; the only black man to have a street named after him in Broadmoor. Steere named Avery Street after his gardener, Leonard Avery. Avery was a black man who planted many of the trees throughout the South Highland neighborhood.

Shreveport’s introduction to the foursquare home comes from A.C. Steere. Foursquare homes are two story homes usually with three rooms on the bottom floor and 4 on the top. They usually have a porch that wraps around the side of the home to a portion of the front. Unlike foursquare homes in the North, Steere screened in the porches and installed ceiling fans. Steere brought this style of home to our region and most of them were built between 1910 and 1930. In many cases, Steere homes had brick fireplaces with oak or pine wood floors. The custom-built homes featured wooden cypress floors and sometimes fleurs-de-lis patterns in the corners.

Steere designed many homes for himself but rarely occupied them. Broadmoor’s old Adger house, named after the prominent family, stands at 1090 East Kings Highway. This home was constructed in 1926 for Steere but was sold to the Adgers upon completion. His first home in South Highlands sits at 939 Delaware. His last residence sits across from Betty Virginia Park at 910 Ockley. Elias Goldstein’s home sits at 818 Unadilla, stretching the width of a city block on Line Avenue. Broadmoor, South Highlands and its annex Glen Iris began to popularize enormously through the 1920’s. Then the Great Depression came along causing development throughout the entire city to halt in 1930.

In July of 1930, Albert C. Steere committed suicide by his pool. He left behind his daughter and wife at age 50. On the morning after his death, KTBS radio had a moment of silence in honor of him. The Broadmoor Grammar School changed its name to A.C. Steere Elementary. It’s undeniably a Shreveport landmark and sits next to a park that is also named for him.

Almost everything I’ve read on Steere’s suicide points the blame at the Depression and how his business was likely to go under and leave him in financial ruin. Despite how accurate this claim can be on why he took his own life, I can’t help but wonder if it was for another reason. I play with alternate reasons because A.C. Steere’s business didn’t go under; it survived the Great Depression. Maybe he was secretly in love with his partner? One thing is certain, Elias Goldstein and Steere’s plans were halted, and Goldstein did not further any of what they created together.

A.C. Steere is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in the Masonic section. He rests next to his wife and infant son. There’s a small bench next to his grave where I often sit and drink cheap scotch. I imagine what the man was really like while laughing at how silly my aimless endeavor is in reality. I have no explanation to why I have a slight obsession with him. I just know the devotion is there. The street names alone give you great insight into his personal life, but I can’t help becoming more curious about the man. I obviously don’t know enough because I believe ignorance is what keeps me motivated.

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