Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum, built in 2003, stands as an attention-getting architectural outlier in historic downtown Natchitoches, Louisiana. Located on Front Street, the museum earned the distinction of the Top Architecture Project in the World in 2013 by Azure magazine.
Local Geography of Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Museum
The museum resides near the banks of Cane River Lake as an abstract ode to the region’s waterfront, crafted of bent steel clad in capstone, its silhouette mimicking the river’s twists and turns.
“The building is constructed with approximately 1030 pieces of individual capstone in all different sizes that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle on top of a steel framework,” explains Jennae Biddiscombe, Branch Director, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum.
The copper and white capstone structure exudes a futuristic rather than faux historic facade, a calculated architectural alternative among the city’s many historic structures downtown.
The Museum’s Historical Significance
Trahan Architects of Baton Rouge designed the museum’s unique structure. The louvered copper exterior is reminiscent of the shutters of plantation homes, and cultivated fields inspire the linear, earth-colored cladding. The interior is designed to resemble the flow of Cane River Lake, with curved walls echoing the natural cut of a river.
“We stand here in Louisiana’s oldest city, the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase, older than New Orleans, founded in 1714. Natchitoches is the cradle of history in our state and west of the Mississippi River,” says Doug Ireland, one of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame founders.
“For the first 14 years of the Hall of Fame’s existence from 1958 forward, it was nomadic. There were inductions at the halftimes of LSU basketball games and at sports banquets around the state. There was a small collection of artwork that went on display in certain places, but it didn’t have a home,” Doug explains.
In 1972, Northwestern State University offered a home and built a permanent display case, which led to the establishment of a weekend celebration honoring new inductees in the Sports Hall of Fame featuring a golf tournament and reception.
Celebrating Louisiana’s Sporting Legacy
“Louisiana has a legacy of turning out more world-class athletes than most states in the nation, so it’s a given that we should honor that with a Sports Hall of Fame Museum,” Doug says.
The building stands as its attraction, drinking in light from large windows above, illuminating a winding stairway connecting two floors and two museums. The ground floor showcases memorabilia from inductees in The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Here, you’ll learn about the accomplishments of notable Louisiana athletes, coaches, and sports stars through multimedia exhibits, including videos and touch screens. The sports museum also extends upstairs and includes new and updated shows.
A Decade of Sporting Glory and Cultural Richness
The museum has updated many exhibits in honor of its 10th anniversary in 2023. “In our LSU case, we added the ESP award for when LSU won the World Series, and two of Nick Saban’s championship rings when he coached LSU football.”
The museum also showcases Heisman Trophy winners who played for LSU, including John Crowe, Billy Cannon, Joe Burrows, and Devonte Smith.
“After LSU Women’s Basketball Coach Kim Mulkey won the 2023 championship, she graciously lent us one of her outfits from that championship season. We have several other pieces of LSU memorabilia from that championship season. So we’re proud of this,” Jennae adds.
A Journey Through Northwest Louisiana’s History
Upstairs houses the Northwest Louisiana History Museum, chronicling 3,000 years of the region’s culture and history with artifacts, handicrafts, and exhibits, including an overview of the Cane River National Heritage area, home to flourishing subcultures, including the Creole community of Isle Brevelle, whose origins began in colonial Natchitoches.
“Exhibits trace historical, cultural, and economic contributions beginning with the Native Americans through the plantation period and modern-day agriculture and timber industries,” Jennae explains.
The museum also highlights notable Louisiana women, including folk artist Clementine Hunter, with 12 original artworks on display—including ten paintings about life on Melrose Plantation, where she lived.
The Museum is a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and the City of Natchitoches and is a must-see for sports fans and culture seekers.