501 Texas St.
Shreveport, LA 71101
We begin our next story in 1838, when a newly created Caddo Parish was in need of a parish seat and center for local government. A temporary courthouse, if you wish to call it that, was established at the private residence of Thomas Wallace. Wallace would later become an important figure in Shreveport and Caddo Parish history, also giving Wallace Lake its name. Obviously, this would only be temporary, and by 1840, the parish then used a structure at the corner of Texas and Market Streets. In April of 1855 the building was sold at a sheriff’s sale, leaving the parish without a courthouse once again so they rented a structure in the 500 block of Market Street from Ephraim C. Hart. Finally, in 1860, someone would come up with the ingenious idea that maybe, just maybe, the city needed a permanent courthouse so a two-story colonial-style structure would be erected.
As we have learned, during the Civil War, Louisiana was a state without a capitol, as
|Photograph of the original Caddo Courthouse.|
In the early years of the new courthouse, the top floor served as the jail, where small time criminals served their sentences and where those guilty of serious crimes met their demise. The jail was also the site of where a total of seven executions by hanging were carried out. It’s last and most notable of these executions was that of the “Butterfly Man.” In the 1920’s, Bunce Napier would go
|Bruce Napier, a.k.a. the "Butterfly Man".|
As the community heard of the horrible crime, they sought vigilante justice and were determined to storm the steps of the courthouse so they could get their hands on Napier. With the aid of the National Guard and a few canisters of tear gas, the local Sheriff and his men were able to keep the mob at bay. This only prolonged things for Napier, as he would ultimately be tried and sentenced to death on May 18, 1932. Shortly after Napier’s execution, the doors to the gallows were officially sealed shut but this was not the last of the executions that would take place. An electric chair was placed on the seventh floor of the courthouse and would carry out several other executions before “Old Sparky” would be retired.
Today, the Caddo Parish Courthouse is your everyday government building where people go to pay their taxes, dispute a traffic ticket and get sentenced to thirty days for punching their neighbor. However, when the daily crowds have gone home and the janitors begin cleaning up, the building seems to take on a life of its own. Those who work late hours at the courthouse often hear strange
|Area that once housed the gallows.|