Chennault Aviation Museum
The Chennault Aviation Museum is celebrating its 20th year. The museum relates the stories of local veterans. Beginning in 2007 with only two rooms, the museum has grown to multiple display rooms that feature exhibits on World War I through Operation Iraqi Freedom. There is also a hanger that contains vintage aircraft. With over eleven thousand artifacts donated to the museum, they will most likely need more space soon. Mostly Louisiana veterans’ stories are told here, but there is an occasional non-local story to be found.
The Chennault Gallery is dedicated to Louisiana native General Claire Chennault’s service in China and creating the Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers were the first aviators to battle the Japanese in World War II. The museum holds the largest number of Chennault artifacts in the world.
There is so much to learn at the Chennault Museum. The personal veterans’ stories told here are moving. The enormous amount of military artifacts play a huge role in telling the story of the wars our nation has fought through the years.
Monroe’s local connection to local aviation history is noted here from the beginnings of Delta Airlines as a crop-dusting company through West Monroe’s own astronaut, James Halsell, Jr. Halsell is the veteran of five space shuttle flights. The museum also has a small collection of moon rocks. I will say it is something to hold a piece of the Moon.
Joseph Biedenharn came to Monroe in 1912 from Vicksburg. He was the first person to put Coke in a bottle in Vicksburg. Designed in 1914, the ridges in the bottle are unique to Coke. A few facts: The ‘baby’ coke bottle was created in 1916 and used up into the 1950s. Coca-Cola was begin referred to as Coke in the 1940s. By 1956, the name “Coke” was added to the bottle. Coca-Cola is the largest and most recognized trademark in the world.
Two counties don’t have Coke, North Korea and Cuba.
Joe was a smart investor and bought shares of stock in Coke. Joe had seven brothers. He and his brother’s sons held seats on the board of Coke until the 1990s. His only daughter. Emma Louise restored the family home. Bernard, his youngest son, helped develop Delta Airlines because of his connection to Coke and Atlanta.
Biedenharn Home and Gardens
Joe built the home in 1914. Emma Louise was Joe’s only daughter and had a career with the London Opera from 1928-1939. Emma Louise created the Biedenharn foundation. When she returned home, she began changing the house. First, she tackled the back yard, which she redesigned to look like the gardens in Europe. In the lobby of the courtyard area of the home is a fountain. The fountain was to be placed in the gardens, but Emma found no place for it, so she had a room created for it. Crushed coke bottles serve as the foundation of the fountain room.
You will find lovely things throughout the home, a portrait of Emma Louise, the dining room with Waterford crystal chandeliers, Baccarat crystal candle holders. The 105-year-old house is surprisingly intimate and comfortable. They did not live a “stuffy” life. Emma never married and lived in the home with her father until he died in 1954. Emma died in 1984.
The garden has five statues called the Iron Maidens. They are eight feet tall and weigh 1700lbs.
The Bible Museum houses a unique collection of bibles and religious art. The self-guided tour allows visitors to enjoy the striking art throughout the collection.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey and water, and other fruits and spices. A Meadery is classified in Louisiana as a winery. Enough about what it is.
Two Warriors opened in February 2020 by owners Curtis Sims and Cameron Myers. Both men are disabled Army veterans. They pledge that a portion of every sale goes to support veteran’s charities. Presently, they have seven meads in production with more in development. Each bottle from creation to purchase is 100% Louisiana made.
Tasting Mead is akin to a wine tasting. Mead can be paired with a variety of spices and other grains and hops. Most will remember Mead from Christmas time mulled wine, but it is so much more than that. Two Warriors’ mission is to “showcase what honey can do in a Mead.” Their mission has been successful.
Bestseller, Oden’s Love, is a recreation of a 12th Century recipe. Bobby Bochet is another popular seller, which is created from a 1300s French recipe. Myers explained they decided to caramelize the honey. It’s a winner.
Two Warriors planned a Viking Feast on Veterans Day, which showcased their award-winning Mead.
The back roads of Louisiana lead you to Landry Vineyards, and it is worth the trip. Set amongst sixteen acres of vines, the vineyard is reminiscent of California or Washington State, from where some of their grapes are sourced. With twenty-four wines on their tasting menu, you can spend an enjoyable afternoon at Landry. Presently, Landry has the most acreage planted of grapes in Louisiana.
Their primary grape grown is a French American hybrid, Blanc Du Bois. You might say that Blanc Du Bois a passionate grape. It is the basis for several of the vineyards’ most popular wines.
Landry Vineyards began in South Louisiana some 21 years ago. After Hurricane Katrina the Landry’s moved the operation to West Monroe. About twelve years ago, the tasting room and patio were added. On Saturdays, guests can enjoy in-depth tours of the winery. They also host live events and family-friendly concerts. The concerts draw anywhere from 900-1200 visitors, so get your tickets early.
Landry’s muscadine varietals are popular with the locals. “The locals grew up eating the muscadines, it’s reminiscent of the past for a lot of folks, so it brings back memories.” Lisa Landry explained.
The “Louisiana Heat,” a Merida style dessert wine, and is handcrafted at Landry. It is a port-style fortified wine.
Landry has a sizeable customer following with some 450 wine club members, and its wines are sold in 650 stores statewide. Find your way to Landry Vineyard and have a few sips of passionate grapes.
Located on the Ouachita River, this unassuming restaurant serves up a view and delicious Cajun cooking. I was not disappointed with my quick bite of dinner.
While I was only able to do a quick visit to the Cooley house, I was surprised to learn that it was built in 1925 and was the last building designed by Walter Burley Griffin and built in the United States. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
The home was constructed for local entrepreneur Gilbert Brian Cooley. Cooley was influential in the building of a hospital in Monroe for the treatment of tuberculosis. The Cooley’s lived in the house until they died in 1952 and 1955, respectively.
Although I was unable to tour the Castle but found it quite beautiful. The original two-story cottage was built in 1814 by Henry Bry. It was added on to in the 1850s by Bry’s daughter. In 1910, his daughter continued renovations and created the Castle that stands today. It has 60 rooms and apartments.
Monroe surprised me with its wealth of history. There is much to explore in Monroe, and I was only able to scratch the surface on a short visit. My thanks to Visit Monroe-West Monroe for making it all possible.