Monroe’s hidden gem - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Monroe’s hidden gem

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) -Earlier this year Monroe businessman Michael Echols bought The Poolside Shop and the Southern Hardware Supply Company buildings in downtown Monroe. Nolan Crane was given an exclusive tour of the buildings. He shows us a rare piece of the city's history that has been hidden for several decades.

In 1891 these buildings on Walnut Street were built to serve the community as a grocery store. About 20 years later the owners built the first theater and opera house in Monroe on the top floor of what was most recently The Poolside Shop.

"It was knows as Sugar's Opera House. They held all types of events there. There are a lot of records out there that show where lots of comedians and entertainers came to entertain at that top floor," said Echols.

This ballroom has not been used in more than 50 years. It's been almost as long since cameras have been inside to capture its history.

"I have talked to people in the community that say they learned how to dance, took dance lessons as kids up there and other people have mentioned things that are of historic in nature. It's a great space. It really deserves to be redeveloped properly and potentially be put back into use as a ballroom or an event center," said Echols.

Echols has completed some minor construction projects to the poolside shop since owning it. The outside of the building is being restored to its historic character.

"There was an aluminum wrapper around the front of the building which hid a lot of the historical elements, so we've gone back and taken that off to make sure that a lot of the historical façade features are still there," said Echols.

These walls have a lot of history and there are a lot of people interested in renting the buildings and transforming them. Whatever this space turns into Echols says the ballroom will stay.

 

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