Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Dalzell St. begins just past I-49 and runs seven or so blocks to the ever-rushed procession of Youree Drive, extending eastward beyond St. Peter’s Baptist Church. You can make it from one end to the next by car in a matter of ten minutes, barring no frenzied Highland cats or plucky squirrels darting past. The streetscape constantly shifts, each block its own world, bound by a singular name. What if, however, this metaphorical tie that binds is more than just a name? Studies of toponymy—the study of place naming—explore the relationship between cultural identity and the names of places. So what does it mean to live on Dalzell St.? We must look to the people who have lived on Dalzell in order to fully understand the significance of the street. Their stories help paint a picture of what makes this street tucked away in Highland so special.
The Reverend Doctor
The Reverend Dr. William Tucker Dickinson Dalzell, D. D., the man for whom this street is named, was somewhat of a walking contradiction. His ability to navigate the complicated realities of survival while nurturing empathy within his community made him, as stated by Maude Hearn O’Pry, “an equally welcome guest in the cottage of the poor and in the mansion of the more prosperous.” Perhaps this is the genesis of the spirit of Dalzell St., a force that lives beyond the man. W.T.D. Dalzell was both a physician and an Episcopalian priest—a man whose vision was linked to both the unflinching eye of scientific fact and awe-filled gaze of religion. He was vocally pro-abolition/Union, but also friends with Robert E. Lee. He served as a Chaplain for the Texan Confederate regimen despite his political leanings as a way to pay tribute to his adopted home. Dalzell contracted and narrowly survived yellow fever in his youth in Jamaica, leaving him immune to the disease. His immunity afforded him the ability to travel to communities stricken by “yellow jack” where most people were fleeing for their lives.
Reverend Dr. Dalzell never meant to stay in the United States. He was born in St. Vincent in the West Indies, educated in medicine in London and Oxford and then ordained in Jamaica. He later served in British Guiana (now Guyana) and then Venezuela before finding his services desperately needed in Savannah, Georgia. He had planned this to be a temporary excursion, but never left the States again. After serving in Philadelphia, Houston and New Orleans, Dalzell accepted the pulpit at St. Mark’s Church in Shreveport in April 1866. In 1873, Dalzell warned his community about the fatalities of yellow fever after he saw signs of the disease amidst his congregation. He was dismissed as an alarmist, only to be one of the last remaining medical professionals left after the outbreak. Dalzell stayed to set up several hospitals before accepting another position in Memphis, home to one of the worst yellow fever epidemics in U.S. history. He returned to Shreveport after a two-year stint in Memphis and remained here until his death in Feb 1899. According to Eric Brock’s biography of Dalzell, “…at his funeral, the mourners stood in the aisles of St. Mark’s…the building could not accommodate the crowd, and many stood outside listening through the windows.” Reverend Dr. W.T.D. Dalzell, an ever-wandering anomaly, had finally found home. He, like many who now live on the street of his namesake, helped foster the community that became his family.
246 for life
“I want Daisy to have her own experience of community, the experience where you meet your family outside of your blood,” Nathan Treme said about his hopes for daughter Daisy Dalzell Treme. He and Amy, his wife and artistic collaborator, thought Dalzell was the perfect middle name for their baby girl, as the story of their family started with an art show on Dalzell. Amy, Dylan Hillman, and Danielle Hillman moved into 246 Dalzell St. about eleven years ago. Amy was a teaching assistant, Danielle was a nanny, and Dylan was a full-time artist. They all made art and needed a place to show their work. “We went to a few places around town and asked if they could put on an art show, but they wanted so much money to rent space. We figured why not just do it at our house?,” Amy candidly remembered with a sweet laugh. After the house art show was a success, the Dalzell kids kept putting on shows. “The Dalzell house community was like my college experience,” said Amy, “it taught me how to live in community and how to accept people for who they are. That it’s really not that hard.”
At first the bands booked were mellow Christian indie bands, but before too long Amy let Dacoda Montana Craig book shows—everything from punk psychedelic-thrash to doom from Tel-Aviv to noise art to hip-hop. When Nathan Treme moved to Shreveport in 2008, he had only planned to be in Shreveport for a few months. Like most small towns, Shreveport had little to offer art-hungry adolescents. Then Nathan heard about a house show at 246 where then-underground (now well-known) rapper Astronautilus was playing. “I walked into the house and was like, Oh! This is what I’ve been looking for,” he recalled. Soon after, Nathan partnered with Dacoda to help book shows. He moved into the house next door, 250, which served as a sort of satellite house for 246 where bands would crash and store gear. “Things used to get ridiculous during SXSW…sometimes there were 4-5 shows a week,” said Dacoda. And almost every show went off without a hitch.
To avoid arrests, the shows would stop at 10:00 pm, so time efficiency was key. Nathan reflected, “Living on Dalzell reinforced the idea that if what you want is not happening, you have the power to make it happen.” As with most innovation, things were born out of necessity, cheap rent, and a desire to see things change.
Room to Grow
That same industrious spirit brought Andrew and Lindsay Nations to Dalzell to start their brewery Great Raft. The brewery, named after the colossal log jam Henry Miller Shreve cleared to establish the city, represents much more than a place to make award-winning beers. It took Andrew and Lindsay eight months to find the perfect building that met their needs: properly zoned for manufacturing, close to a neighborhood, and most importantly a place with lots of room to grow. Since selling their first beer in October 15, 2013—the first brewery to sell beer in the Shreveport-Bossier City area since Prohibition—Great Raft has expanded their distribution to four states. Each move has been made with integrity and in keeping with the spirit of Dalzell. “Without a strong community, there is no Great Raft,” Lindsay declared. In addition to bringing the community into their space with the tasting room, Great Raft works diligently to give back to various organizations that help the community grow. In 2017 Great Raft Brewing donated over $21,000 through charitable giving. Their concentration in 2017 was to continue building relationships with local and state non-profits through fundraising events at the tasting room. Monthly fun runs benefiting St. Jude’s and quarterly “celebrity” bar tending nights with tips going directly to non-profits were just a few of their successful brewery events “We have so much room to grow,” said Lindsay, and Great Raft’s growth directly influences the community.
“An untold number of children have been raised in that house,” said Robert Trudeau about his house on Dalzell St., “a lot of people started their families while living there.” Robert arrived in Shreveport from New Orleans in the early 1970s and was immediately drawn to Highland in large part because of its diversity. “Highland was and has been a racially integrated, peaceful neighborhood. At the time, a Bahai family lived across the street. They were a deeply soulful people symbolic of the diversity of Highland.” He took a teaching position at Bethune High and felt a strong connection with his students and the community. “And I didn’t have to cut my hair,” he said. Robert found a home on the 400 block where the streets reminded him of his previous home in New Orleans. He later moved to the 600 block where his home became a hub for artists and musicians.
Highland was alive with sound—between the ongoing housing repairs due to economic stimulus from a tax credit and music in the streets, everything was abuzz. Robert recalled waking every Saturday morning to the sound of timbales. Paul Griffith, drummer for A Train, would sit on his porch and play timbales as a way to salute the neighborhood. “They were so loud, but he was so good that no one complained,” Robert recounted with a laugh. His living room was always set up for jams and get-togethers. Both local unknowns and world renown artists would come through, such as Kevin Russell of the Gourds and Picket line Coyotes, Bruce Flett, and Jim Huckabee just to name a few. Although Robert has since moved to South Highlands, he still keeps and renovates his house on Dalzell to keep it active with family life. “I had children who were born and started their lives in that house, but it’s quite a number,” said Trudeau. It’s hard work maintaining a house from the 1920s, but Robert knows the true value of his labor. “Good landlords are the key life in Highland. If you’re a bad landlord that lets your property run down, then you are dragging Shreveport down. If you’re a landlord who cares and fixes things and welcome people with honesty, then you are helping Shreveport,” declared Robert. One of Robert Trudeau’s residents, Makalani Jones, has come to discover he is a “kindred spirit to the soil” of Highland. “I came home to seek higher ground,” said Makalani. Makalani left Port Arthur in Beaumont after hurricane Harvey. A former teacher at Central Medical Magnet School in Beaumont-Port Arthur, Makalani is a professional musician and multi-disciplinary artist. Although he has only been in Shreveport for a little over a month, he has established himself as a local, playing at beloved haunts like Bar Chord and Noble Savage with his group the Makalani Jones Trio. He’s found a home where he can grow. When describing Dalzell St., Makalani paints words like watercolors: “If my street had a human personality, it would be very meditative…like it’s some type of temple. There are friendly cats everywhere and the tall trees seem like they stood the test of time.”
Get to know your neighbor
The 400 block of Dalzell has an expansive street, both in size and its ability to demonstrate the multifaceted realities of being human. The wide block was once a turning station for the city’s trolley. It was lined with trees, many of which were taken out in early 2000 by tornadoes and straight-lined winds. It’s wide open. Local artist Kathryn Usher found herself drawn to the block and purchased a home there in 1991. She and her late husband fell in love with the street, “This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere,” she said, “Each street is its own universe in Highland. I’ve always felt very safe in my home. It gives me space to create.” She and her significant other James Marks, a wire-sculpture artist, have enough room to hone their respective crafts. “He needs enough room to whip the wire around,” she laughed. “It’s a beautiful block. It’s easy to see the energy of Dalzell was very free-flowing.” Her neighbor Karen La Beau is also an artist.
Karen La Beau and her family moved from New Orleans to Dalzell in 2007. “We knew Highland was where we were going to feel comfortable,” Karen stated, “and the block reminded me of Saint Charles Street. It’s more like a boulevard, a little wider and all of the homes are distinctive.” When she first moved to Shreveport, Karen struggled with the transition, but found solace and wellbeing in her newfound home. The 400 block is home to many artists and art enthusiasts. “It fed me as an artist. I became an artist when I moved here,” Karen proudly stated, “And my husband Darrel is also coming into his own as an artist and producer of electronic music.” She’s found that Dalzell is a nurturing place for her and her family. “I love when you see someone in need and people coming to their aid,” she smiled, “If any of us were in need, we would come to each other’s aid. That street is my home.”
On the same block, Britney Lee and Luke Lee shared their vision for a communal home with Yellow House. “We knew we wanted to create a faith-based communal living situation; we didn’t want to wait until we had families to have family living”, recalled Britney. The started the Yellow House in 2011 and were able to provide internship opportunities when the program was active. “I had heard rumors about Dalzell from when I was at Centenary, but never went to shows. When we were looking for a house to establish the program, we came across Dalzell and I started to make the connections,” said Britney. In the true DIY-spirit of Highland, the residents started doing house shows because most of their residents were musicians. What started as a means for community outreach, however, became something far more meaningful. “It took me too long to realize that Highland can be classified in a thousand different ways. I came in with this “save the neighborhood” mentality…and then I found that, I was getting saved.” Although the Yellow House is no longer a program, the Lees felt like Dalzell was too important for them to leave. They now live just across the street from their old house. “I’ve found it’s important to establish connections with your block regardless of what season you are in life,” Britney beamed, “All of that spiritual superiority gets debunked when you start living like a neighbor.”
Geography of our memory
We inherit the history of our streets. Dalzell is more than lilt of the word leaving your mouth—it’s the taste of an awkward kiss at a house party, of your neighbor’s red beans & rice at a potluck, of the seasonal stout from the brewery, of cheap beer you bought from Circle K, of late-night cigarettes and coffee on front porches rattling to the cadence of our oral history, guiding the geography of our memory.