The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum focuses on two distinct aspects of the state: sports history and cultural heritage. The Museum’s mixing of these two historical subjects makes it a wonderful site for learning about the people of Louisiana and their influence throughout the state, the nation, and sometimes even the world.
The Hall of Fame is based in Natchitoches, Louisiana, approximately an hour and a half drive southwest from Shreveport, in a building designed by the firm Trahan Architects. Because the Museum celebrates so many award-winning athletes, it is only fitting that, in 2013, Trahan Architects’ superb structure also won a top award from Azure magazine. The Louisiana-based architectural firm’s design plan took certain aspects and concepts of Louisiana culture, ranging from familiar colors to traditional structural shapes, but modernized them into a true architectural work of art.
Inside the Museum, visitors will see a variety of sports memorabilia, including jerseys, helmets, footballs, basketballs and other such objects. Make sure to see the display celebrating the Super Bowl XLIV winning New Orleans Saints! Besides the numerous display and interpretive text panels, the Museum also features the Wall of Honor listing the many inductees from the Hall of Fame’s founding until today.
If you are a huge sports fan, then you will probably know several of the names on the Wall of Honor; however, depending on your age or lack of interest in a specific sport, you might not (and probably will not) know them all. If you have children with you, then the Wall makes for a great spot to familiarize them with the names of famous athletes from the state’s past. It can be quite fun to try and spot different athletes from throughout Louisiana sports history!
When you are looking at the Wall of Honor, there are several names you should search for. If you are a basketball fan, then try to find Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich, Avery Johnson, Karl Malone and Joe Dumars. For baseball, Ron Guidry, Mel Ott, Lou Brock and Bill Dickey. Football legends on the Wall include Terry Bradshaw, Warrick Dunn, Marshall Faulk and Archie Manning. Besides inductees from the three most popular American sports, many others ones are also represented including Olympic medal winners Kathy Johnson Clarke and Audrey “Mickey” Patterson-Tyler, softball player Kyla Hall Holas, and 3-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel.
In the other section, the Northwest Louisiana History Museum, visitors learn the history of the surrounding area and its people. The mixture of several different cultures, people, and countries made Louisiana develop a special cultural heritage of its own. Although it has aspects of Southern culture, the state remains unique. The Museum interprets this through a collection of different objects, such as clothing, portraits, and Native American artifacts that explain the state's history to its guests. If you are visiting the museum specifically for the historical and cultural part, then be aware that it is much smaller than the sports section. Think of the Hall of Fame as being the primary museum and the History Museum as being a nice added bonus.
One particular must-see exhibit in the History Museum is dedicated to the artwork of Clementine Hunter. A noted Creole African-American artist, Clementine Hunter used her self-taught artistic talents to create paintings based on her life working at Melrose Plantation. If you are interested in learning more about her life, enjoying more of her art, and learning about the inspiration for her paintings then I recommend you visit Melrose Plantation approximately a 30-minute drive south from the History Museum.
As with many smaller cities, Natchitoches hopes the Museum becomes a great economic tourism asset for both the city and the surrounding area. With the majority of the state’s tourists going to New Orleans to explore its famous French Quarter or see the Mardi Gras parade, the Hall of Fame Museum gives visitors a very different reason to visit another section of Louisiana, approximately 4 and half hours away from the city. However, Trahan Architects’ design cost $23 million means that the Hall of Fame has a difficult task ahead. Despite its cost, the Museum has grown in popularity since opening and, hopefully, will attract enough visitors to not only pay for itself, but also provide revenue for future projects as well. It will be quite interesting to follow along and observe how the Hall of Fame grows in the next decade or two!
After you see all that both parts of the Museum have to offer, if you are hungry, then try one of Natchitoches’ many restaurants in the surrounding area. Because you are in Louisiana, I recommend you try one featuring local Cajun, Creole and Southern cuisine–featuring staples such as fried alligator, crawfish etouffee, catfish, and gumbo–in order to get a taste of the state’s famous cuisine. Some of the choices you could consider include Mama’s Oyster House, Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant, or Merci Beaucoup. Another one you could try, Maglieaux's Riverfront Restaurant, not only serves Louisiana specialties, but also Italian dishes as well. If you are from the state and looking for something completely different, then consider Hana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill. Whatever you decide on, you’re sure to find somewhere to eat only a short walk or drive away from the Museum!
No matter if you visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum for the sports, the history, or another reason entirely, you are sure to leave with a better understanding and appreciation for the state’s many athletic stars and unique cultural history. Next time you travel to Louisiana, consider exploring Natchitoches for a different experience than New Orleans. Also, if possible, taste some of Louisiana’s famous food!