THE HERBERT S. FORD
When Captain Herbert S. Ford returned home from World War One, he brought a few reminders from the
“War to End All Wars” to show his family and friends. These items, and others obtained from the
War Department, were destined to become the nucleus of the collection that would grow into today’s
Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum.
Mr. Ford’s collecting efforts began in earnest in 1924, when his sons returned from playing in the
Homer City Dump bearing a German Infantry Officer’s helmet. Their “find” caused him to realize that people were discarding items of historical significance, and he subsequently turned his attention to collecting items from the fast-disappearing lifeways of rural North Louisiana. Agricultural implements, household furnishings and other relics from a
time before rural electrification all found a place in his collection.
Early on, Mr. Ford housed his “museum” in the Homer Fire Station. Later, under the sponsorship of
Homer’s Pate-Thomas Post No. 73 of the American Legion, he was assigned a room in the Homer High School building in which to display his collection. Ultimately, he purchased the “Doodle,” a passenger car retired from the local railroad to house his ever-growing collection. Ford placed the train car alongside his residence on North Main Street, where it became
a popular destination for visitors whom he entertained with guided tours of his museum.
When Mr. Ford died in 1960, his family donated his collection to the Town of Homer and his museum, now named the Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum, was moved to the old Claiborne Creamery building on North Second Street.
Harry McKenzie, Jr., James McKenzie, Edward Seeliger, Sr. and Irene Thompson were among the volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep the Museum going during this time. As a result of their efforts, the Museum’s collection continued to grow. The Museum lost its home in 1975, when the Creamery building was demolished to make way for a new
Sheriff’s Office and Jail. From 1975 to 1982, the Ford Museum’s collection was loosely stored on the stage at
Homer City Hall.
New quarters for the Museum became available in 1982, with the completion of the adaptive restoration of the old
Hotel Claiborne building on Homer’s town square. The historic building, known locally as the “Maritzky Building,” had been donated to the Town of Homer by Dorace Maritzky Fichtenbaum to be designated, “The Maritzky Building for the Arts.” Funds for its restoration were provided in part by a Federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) awarded to the
Town of Homer. Other portions of the grant monies were applied to making improvements to Homer’s historic
In June, 1982, the Ford Museum’s collection was retrieved from the City Hall and moved into its new location. At that time, a seminal grant was obtained from the Louisiana Committee for the Humanities to provide professional assistance to the volunteers in re-establishing the museum.
Under the auspices of Project #1980-82-177.1, entitled “Interpretation of the Permanent Collection of the Ford Museum,” Morgan Peoples and Dr. Philip Cook of Louisiana Tech University, and Mrs. Shirley Ayatey of Grambling State University, Project Humanists, provided written material concerning the historical development of North Central Louisiana.
LeRoy H. Musselman of LSU in Shreveport and Ms. Jeanne H. Mason of the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport served as Technical Consultants for the grant. Mr. Musselman furnished the Museum with a Docent Guide, and Ms. Mason applied her artistic gifts to projects ranging from exhibit design to painting murals on the walls. The contributions of these individuals were indispensable in bringing the Museum back to life.
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