Shreveport was founded in 1836 by the Shreve Town Company, a corporation established to develop a town at the juncture of the newly navigable Red River and the Texas Trail, an overland route into the newly independent Republic of Texas and, prior to that time, into Mexico.
Shreveport is the commercial and cultural center of the Ark-La-Tex region, where Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas meet.
Shreveport was established to launch a town at the meeting point of the Red River and the Texas Trail. The Red River was cleared and made newly navigable by Henry Miller Shreve, who led the United States Army Corps of Engineers effort to clear the river. A 180-mile-long (290 km) natural log jam, the Great Raft, had previously obstructed passage to shipping. Shreve used a specially modified riverboat, the Heliopolis, to remove the log jam. The company and the village of Shreve Town were named in Shreve's honor.
Shreve Town was originally contained within the boundaries of a section of land sold to the company by the indigenous Caddo Indians in 1835. In 1838 Caddo Parish was created from the large Natchitoches Parish, and Shreve Town became its parish seat. On March 20, 1839, the town was incorporated as Shreveport. Originally, the town consisted of 64 city blocks, created by eight streets running west from the Red River and eight streets running south from Cross Bayou, one of its tributaries.
Shreveport soon became a center of steamboat commerce, mostly cotton and agricultural crops. Shreveport also had a slave market, though slave trading was not as widespread as in other parts of the state. Steamboats plied the Red River, and stevedores loaded and unloaded cargo. By 1860, Shreveport had a population of 2,200 free people and 1,300 slaves within the city limits.
Isolated from events in the east, the Civil War continued in the Trans-Mississippi theater for several weeks after Robert E. Lee's surrender in April 1865, and the Trans-Mississippi was the last Confederate command to surrender, on May 26, 1865. Confederate President Jefferson Davis tried to flee to Shreveport, intending to go down the Mississippi, when he left Richmond but was captured en route in Irwinville, Georgia.
Throughout the war, women in Shreveport did much to assist the soldiers fighting mostly far to the east. Historian John D. Winters writes of them in The Civil War in Louisiana:
"The women of Shreveport and vicinity labored long hours over their sewing machines to provide their men with adequate underclothing and uniforms. After the excitement of Fort Sumter, there was a great rush to get the volunteer companies ready and off to New Orleans...Forming a Military Aid Society, the ladies of Shreveport requested donations of wool and cotton yarn for knitting socks. Joined by others, the Society collected blankets for the wounded and gave concerts and tableaux to raise funds. Tickets were sold for a diamond ring given by the mercantile house of Hyams and Brothers...
A Confederate minstrel show gave two performances to raise money for the war effort in Shreveport in December 1862. The Shreveport Ladies Aid Society announced a grand dress ball for April 6, 1863. That same month students at the Mansfield Female College in Mansfield in De Soto Parish presented a vocal and instrumental concert to support the war.
The Red River, which had been opened by Shreve in the 1830s, remained navigable throughout the Civil War. Water levels got so low at one point that Union AdmiralDavid Dixon Porter was trapped with his gunboats north of Alexandria. His engineers quickly constructed a temporary dam to raise the water level and free his fleet.
By 1914, neglect and lack of use due to diversion of freight traffic to railroad lines resulted in the Red River becoming unnavigable. In 1994, the United States Army Corps of Engineers restored navigability by completion of a series of lock-and-dam structures and a navigation channel. Today, Shreveport-Bossier City is being re-developed as a port and shipping center.
In 1895, Justin Vincent Gras (1868-1959), a native of France, opened the largest grocery and liquor store in Shreveport. "What is good for Shreveport is good for me" became his motto. Gras turned to real estate and by the 1920s was the largest landholder in Caddo Parish. Gras and his wife, Eugenie, donated $2.3 million to establish the Community Foundation of North Louisiana. During World War I, Gras rebuilt the home church of his native village in the Pyrenees. He is interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Shreveport.
By the 1910s, Huddie William Ledbetter—also known as "Lead Belly", a blues singer and guitarist who eventually achieved worldwide fame—was performing for Shreveport audiences in St. Paul's Bottoms, the notorious red-light district of Shreveport which operated legally from 1903 to 1917. Ledbetter began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport's Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms. Bluesmen Jesse Thomas, Dave Alexander, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the early jazz and ragtime composer Bill Wray and composer Willian Christopher O'Hare were all from Shreveport.
In 1963, headlines across the country reported that musician Sam Cooke was arrested after his band tried to register at a "whites-only" Holiday Inn in Shreveport. Public facilities in Louisiana were still segregated, an example of the kinds of injustices that the Civil Rights Movement was working to change. In the months following, Cooke recorded the civil rights era song, "A Change Is Gonna Come." In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to end segregation of public facilities.
In the mid-1990s, the coming of riverboat gambling to Shreveport attracted numerous new patrons to the downtown and spurred a revitalization of the adjacent downtown and riverfront areas. Many downtown streets were given a facelift through the "Streetscape" project, where brick sidewalks and crosswalks were built, and statues, sculptures, and mosaics were added. The O.K. Allen Bridge, commonly known as the Texas Street bridge, was lit with neon lights that were met with a variety of opinions among residents.
Shreveport sits on a low elevation overlooking the Red River. Pine forests, cotton fields, wetlands, and waterways mark the outskirts of the city. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 120.8 sq mi (312.9 km2), of which 105.4 sq mi (272.9 km2) is land and 15.4 sq mi (40.0 km2), or 12.79%, is water.
Shreveport has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classificationCfa). Rainfall is abundant, with the normal annual precipitation averaging over 51 inches (1.3 m), with monthly averages ranging from less than 3 inches (76 mm) in August to more than 5 inches (130 mm) in June. Severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail, damaging winds and tornadoes occur in the area during the spring and summer months. The winter months are normally mild, with an average of 35 days of freezing or below-freezing temperatures per year, with ice and sleet storms possible. Summer months are hot and humid, with maximum temperatures exceeding 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 91 days per year, with high to very high relative average humidity, sometimes exceeding the 90 percent level.
The extreme temperatures range from −5 °F (−21 °C) on February 12, 1899, to 110 °F (43 °C) on August 18, 1909.
Pine Wold house (Fairfield Avenue at Kirby Street) was designed by Edward F. Neild, who created some of the designs for the interior of the White House in the Truman administration as well as the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Pine Wold was constructed in 1903 by lumberman T. J. Jones and expanded in 1919 by oilman J. P. Evans. For a time the Mighty Haag Circus wintered on the grounds, and the circus elephant Trilby is buried there.
Shreveport encompasses many different neighborhoods and districts. Below is a list of the various areas in the Greater Shreveport area of Caddo Parish:
In the Highland section, along Fairfield Avenue, more than a half dozen homes have been designated as historic. These include residences once occupied by Lieutenant Governor Thomas Charles Barret, who served early in the 20th century; a Broadwaydirector, Joshua Logan; a former governor, Ruffin Pleasant, and wife; a physician and developer, George W. Robinson; a Coca Cola bottler, Zehntner Biedenharn; the first mayor of Bossier City, Ewald Max Hoyer, who took office in 1907; and a major real estate owner, John B. Slattery, whose home is one of five remaining structures in Shreveport designed by the noted architect N. S. Allen.
As of the 2010 census the population of Shreveport was 199,311. The racial and ethnic composition of the population was 42.5% White, 50.4% Black or African American, 1.0% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 1.2% from some other race and 1.5% from two or more races. 6.5% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 91,501 households, out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.3% were married couples living together, 21.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.12. Population ages ranked as follows: 26.9% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. The city ranks third in the nation of cities over 100,000 population with significant gender disparity: for every 100 females there were only 87.4 males, and for every 100 females age 18 and over, there were just 82.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,526, 72.4% of the national median of $42,148, and the median income for a family was $37,126. Males had a median income of $31,278 versus $21,659 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,759. About 18.7% of families and 22.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.3% of those under age 18 and 16.3% of those age 65 or over.
In Shreveport, City Hall is known as "Government Plaza".
U.S. Courthouse in Shreveport
The Louisiana State Office Building in Shreveport was originally the headquarters of the former United Gas Corporation.
Founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1839, Shreveport is the parish seat of Caddo Parish. It is part of the First Judicial District, housing the parish courthouse. It also houses the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal, which consists of nine elected judges representing twenty parishes in northwest Louisiana. A portion of east Shreveport extends into Bossier Parish due to the changing course of the Red River.
The city of Shreveport has a mayor-council government. The elected municipal officials include the mayor, Cedric Glover, and seven members of the city council. Glover, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, is the first African American to hold the position. Under the mayor-council government, the mayor serves as the executive officer of the city. As the city's chief administrator and official representative, the mayor is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced.
Health care is a major industry in Shreveport. Christus Schumpert Medical Center is a leading cancer-treatment facility in the South.
Shreveport Convention Center
The Shriners Hospital for Children, now at the corner of Samford Avenue and Kings Highway, was the first of its kind in the United States. It was established in 1922.
Shreveport was once a major player in United States oil business and at one time could boast Standard Oil of Louisiana as a locally based company. The Louisiana branch was later absorbed by Standard Oil of New Jersey. Beginning in 1930, the nation's busiest pipeline operator and massive integrated oil company, United Gas Corporation, was headquartered in Shreveport, until its hostile takeover by Pennzoil in 1968 and subsequent forced merger. In the 1980s, the oil and gas industry suffered a large economic downturn, and many companies cut back jobs or went out of business, including a large retail shopping mall, South Park Mall, which closed in the late 1990s and is now Summer Grove Baptist Church. Shreveport suffered severely from this recession, and many residents left the area.
Because Shreveport has the highest property taxes in Louisiana, many incoming residents do not locate within the city itself. Growth has therefore trended toward the southwest into DeSoto Parish or east to Bossier City and beyond. Political analyst and consultant Elliott Stonecipher describes Shreveport as "a far less vibrant community" than Bossier City because many lower-income Shreveport residents who pay no property taxes are heavily dependent on public services, a situation far less common in Bossier City. Stonecipher said that Bossier City economically resembles much of East Texas, more so than neighboring Shreveport.
Shreveport has largely transitioned to a service economy. In particular, the area has seen a rapid growth in the gaming industry, hosting various riverboat gambling casinos, and, before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was second only to New Orleans in Louisiana tourism. Nearby Bossier City is home to one of the three horse racetracks in the state, Harrah's Louisiana Downs. Casinos in Shreveport-Bossier include Sam's Town Casino, Eldorado Casino, Horseshoe Casino, Boomtown Casino, and Diamond Jacks Casino (formerly Isle of Capri). The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau is the official tourism information agency for the region. The bureau maintains a comprehensive database of restaurants, accommodations, attractions, and events.
In May 2005, the Louisiana Boardwalk, a 550,000-square-foot (51,000 m2) shopping and entertainment complex, opened across the Red River in Bossier City, featuring outlet shopping, several restaurants, a 14‑screen movie theater, a bowling complex, and a Bass Pro Shops.
A new 350,000-square-foot (33,000 m2) convention center was recently completed in downtown Shreveport. It includes an 800-space parking garage. An adjoining Hilton Hotel opened in June 2007. The city's direct construction and ownership of the Hilton Hotel has been a controversial issue as to the proper use of public funds. The Shreveport Convention Center is managed by SMG.
As of November 2008, excitement has centered around the Haynesville Shale, with many new jobs in the natural gas industry expected to be created over the next few years. Residents in the region are enjoying large bonuses for signing mineral rights leases up to $25,000 per acre. However, the recent economic downturn has resulted in a lower market price for natural gas and slower-than-expected drilling activity. The city itself stands to profit by leasing the mineral rights on public lands in the near future as neighboring municipalities have already done.
Robinson Film Center is a non-profit organization on Texas Avenue in downtown Shreveport with new and older film offerings, matinees and evenings.
Tax incentives offered by the state government have given Louisiana the third largest film industry in the country, behind California and New York. Louisiana is sometimes called "Hollywood South". A number of films have been made in Shreveport. Facilities include sound stages, prop rental facilities, the Fairgrounds Complex, and the Louisiana Wave Studio, a computer-controlled outdoor wave pool.
Additionally, several television series have been shot in Shreveport and the surrounding area, including The Gates (2010), and Salem (2014). The Louisiana Film Prize has spurred the creation of over 200 short films shot in Shreveport and northwest Louisiana by filmmakers from around the world since its inception in 2012.
Caddo Public Schools is a school district based in Shreveport. The district serves all of Caddo Parish. Its founding superintendent was Clifton Ellis Byrd, a Virginia native, who assumed the chief administrative position in 1907 and continued until his death in 1926. C. E. Byrd High School, which was established in 1925 on Line Avenue at the intersection with East Kings Highway, bears his name.
Ayers Career College is a Shreveport-based college that offers career training in the medical and HVAC fields.
Since July 2007, Shreveport is home to a local Remington College campus. This location offers both diploma and degree programs, and is active in the Shreveport Community.
Virginia College is a new college that opened early 2012. Located in Shreveport/Bossier City, Virginia College offers career training in areas such as Business and Office, Health and Medical, and Medical Billing.
The Episcopal St. Mark's Cathedral on Rutherford Street
First United Methodist Church on Texas Street in downtown Shreveport. The sanctuary dates to 1913.
Sanctuary of J. S. Noel, Jr. Memorial United Methodist Church in the Highland sections of Shreveport dates to 1913.
First Presbyterian Church is located at 900 Jordan Street in Shreveport near the large State Office Building.
Shreveport has churches of many denominations and sizes. At the head of Texas Street is the large First United Methodist Church, established at that site in 1884. The current sanctuary dates to 1913. The church is pastored by Pat Day. Among its former pastors were D. L. Dykes, Jr., and John E. Fellers. The fiberglass steeple of the church fell onto a passing car during a severe thunderstorm in 2009. It has since been replaced.
A second Methodist congregation is named for J. S. Noel, Jr. The church was begun as a mission in 1906. Methodist layman James Noel and his wife, Fannie, provided financially for the church in its early years. The congregation decided to name the church for the Noel's late son. Like First United Methodist, it opened in the current sanctuary in 1913 and grew rapidly. A fire gutted the building in 1925, and only a portion of the loss was covered by insurance. The members expanded their ranks and rebuilt at the 500 Herndon location. The current Noel Memorial pastor is Flint Shea.
A large First Baptist Church was once pastored by Monroe E. Dodd, an early radio minister and founder of the former Dodd College for Girls. Former GovernorJimmie Davis, a Shreveport city commissioner too, taught history for a year under Dodd's tutelage. Other large Baptist congregations include Calvary Baptist, Broadmoor Baptist, and Summer Grove Baptist. The last was previously pastored by Wayne L. DuBose, now a Baptist denominational officer. Westview Christian Church is an independent Christian church that serves the area as well with members from diverse denominational backgrounds.
Shreveport is home to Shreveport Community Church, an inter-denominational church belonging to the Assemblies of God. The congregation has experienced exponential growth from the 100 members in 1950 to the more than 6,000 it claims now. It is pastored by Denny Duron, who succeeded his father, Rodney Duron, after 45 years at the pulpit. The church has an education program in Evangel Christian Academy, a pre‑K through 12th grade private school that has produced an average of 1 million dollars of scholastic scholarships for its graduating seniors every year. The church has produced a biblical musical, "Songs of the Season", during the Christmas holidays for the past 20 years at the Historic Strand Theater in downtown Shreveport.
Particularly striking in size and architecture is St. Mark's Cathedral, an Episcopal congregation at 908 Rutherford Street in the Highland section of Shreveport. St. Mark's dates its establishment to the first religious service held in Shreveport in 1839.
The Jewish community dates to the organization of Congregation Har El in 1859, which later became B'nai Zion Temple, today the city's Reform congregation and largest synagogue. Agudath Achim, founded in 1905 as an Orthodox congregation, is today a traditional Jewish synagogue. Foster E. Kawaler, the current rabbi, is focused on rebuilding the congregation, which dwindled in size during the second half of the twentieth century. Shreveport, historically, has had a large and civic-minded Jewish community and has elected three Jewish mayors.
Shreveport's rugby team, the Shreveport Rugby Football Club, was founded in 1977, making it the oldest continuously competing sport team in Shreveport. It is a member of USA Rugby and participates in the Texas Rugby Football Union.
Shreveport had an expansion team of the defunct World Football League known as the Shreveport Steamer in 1974. They played at State Fair Stadium (now known as Independence Stadium) from September 1974 through October 1975. The Steamer were originally the Houston Texans before moving to Shreveport in September 1974. In their inaugural season they had a record of 7‑12‑1. They went 5‑7 in their final season in 1975. Shreveport also hosted a Canadian Football League team in the mid-1990s known as the Shreveport Pirates. Bernard Glieberman, a Detroit real estate developer, was owner of the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL. In 1994, he sold the team and purchased the expansion franchise that ultimately wound up in Shreveport. He was allowed to take a handful of Ottawa players with him, including quarterback Terrence Jones. However, the Pirates became yet another unsuccessful American CFL team. Their first victory did not come until the 15th week of their initial season, and in 1995, all of their victories came against Canadian teams. By 1996 the team had folded.
Shreveport is the birthplace, home, or former home of several American football stars and other noteworthy sports figures, among them:
Shreveport's Independence Stadium has served as host of the Independence Bowl since 1976. The stadium is also the home of the Port City Classic which started in 2010 when Louisiana Tech University played Grambling. Independence Stadium is the third largest stadium in Louisiana, with a seating capacity of 61,000 people, only behind the Mercedes-Benz Superdome of 72,000 and Tiger Stadium of 102,431 in Baton Rouge.
Mardi Gras celebrations in Shreveport date to the mid‑19th century when krewes and parades were organized along the lines of those of New Orleans. Mardi Gras in Shreveport did not survive the cancellations caused by World War I, however. Attempts to revive it in the 1920s were unsuccessful, and the last Carnival celebrations in Shreveport for decades were held in 1927. Mardi Gras in Shreveport was revived beginning in 1984 with the organization of the Krewe of Apollo. The Krewes of Gemini, Centaur, Aesclepius, Highland, Sobek, Harambee, and others, followed during the next decade and a half. The first krewe to revive parading was Gemini in 1989. Today, Mardi Gras is again an important part of the cultural life of the Shreveport metropolitan area.
KSLA, CBS affiliate, is the oldest television station in Shreveport. Established in the former Washington Youree Hotel in 1954, it was moved to Fairfield Avenue in the early 1970s.
Shreveport is served by a variety of print publications. The major daily newspaper serving the Shreveport-Bossier and Ark-La-Tex area is the Shreveport Times. Its headquarters are located in downtown Shreveport near Interstate 20. A second major paper, the afternoon Shreveport Journal, ceased publication in 1991.
Shreveport is home to several radio stations, particularly KWKH and KEEL, having reputations beyond the city. The three commercial television outlets are KSLA, CBS, founded in 1954; KTBS-TV, ABC, founded in 1955, and KTAL-TV, arrived in Shreveport in September 1961 as the NBC station. KTBS was an NBC station, with occasional ABC programs, from 1955–1961, when it switched affiliation to ABC. KTAL, formerly known as KCMC of Texarkana, was a CBS outlet prior to conversion to NBC, when it began to cover Shreveport as well as Texarkana. Don Owen (1930-2012), a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission from 1984–2002, is also a former news anchorman on KSLA.
Shreveport is home to the two 108th Cavalry Squadron, the reconnaissance element of the 256th Infantry Brigade. Three of the squadron's four cavalry troops are located at 400 East Stoner Avenue in a historic armory known as "Fort Humbug". This was named due to the Confederate Army burning logs to look like cannons and placing them along the Red River. This caused Union ironclad ships sailing north on the Red River to be tricked into turning back south.
Shreveport's past reflects the need for mass transit and public roads. As far back as the 1870s, residents used mule-drawn street cars that were converted to electric-motorized cars by 1890. Commuter rail systems in Shreveport flourished for many decades, and rail car lines extended out to rural areas. In 1930 trolleys and rail cars began to be replaced by buses, although motor buses did not finally replace all trolley service until the 1960s. In the 1960s, the Interstate Highway System came to the area with the construction of Interstate 20.
The local public transportation provider, SporTran, provides moderately extensive bus service throughout Shreveport and Bossier City. Sportran operates seven days a week on seventeen bus routes (five night routes) from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., with no night service on Sunday.
The highway system has a cross-hair and loop freeway structure similar to that of Texas cities like Houston and Dallas. The loop consists of the Outer Loop Freeway Interstate 220 on the north and the Inner Loop Freeway, Louisiana Highway 3132, on the south, forming approximately an 8-mile-diameter (13 km) semi-loop around downtown. Another loop is formed by the Bert Kouns Industrial Loop (Louisiana Highway 526) and circles further south bisecting Interstate 49. Interstate 49 is currently under construction to extend north to Interstate 30 in Arkansas.
J. Howell Flournoy (1891–1966), sheriff of Caddo Parish from 1940 until his death in office
Homer Flynn, spokesman for the avant garde music and visual arts group The Residents, member of their production company Cryptic Corporation and rumored to be the founding member and lead singer of the group
William Gabriel Fuller, IV (Born 1957) (Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) US Army) Finalist - National Security and International Affairs, 2010 Service to America Medal; known as the moving force behind the development of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Ambulances supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
Davidson Garrett (born 1952), poet and actor, and New York City yellow taxi cab driver, best known for his book King Lear of the Taxi: Musings of a New York City Actor/Taxi Driver (Advent Purple Press, 2006)
A. B. George (1829-1899), Alabama native, mayor of Minden from 1856 to 1858, state senator, district attorney, and upon relocation to Shreveport, a judge of the appeals court
John Bernard Slattery, (1844-1927), District Attorney (1876), U.S, Commissioner, businessman and large land owner in Caddo Parish, Built the Slattery House on Fairfield in 1903 which is on the National Register of Historic Places (designed by local architect N. S. Allen), built the Slattery Building (1924)
LeRoy Smallenberger (1912-2002), lawyer, judge, and Republican state chairman from 1960 to 1964
^Billy Hathorn, "Otto Passman, Jerry Huckaby, and Frank Spooner: The Louisiana Fifth Congressional District Election of 1976", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, LIV No. 3 (Summer 2013), p. 346