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Local History

Local History: St. Tammany Ice & Manufacturing Company

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Covington History segment provided by local historical writer Ron Barthet. View Ron’s blog Tammany Family here.

Back in the days when everyone had “ice boxes” instead of refrigerators, it meant you had to have a steady supply of ice delivered to your door. Since ice doesn’t keep well in the summer, it meant there had to be an ice house in every town, and to make ice, it helped to have electricity. So in the early days of electricity, the ice houses generally became the electric generating stations that eventually supplied the entire town not only with cool ice but also with hot electric current.

At least that was the case in Covington, and here are two photographs from the early 20th century to illustrate the point.

Here is the Covington Ice House and Electric plant building. The company had the first generator in Covington, and was awarded the contract to provide the town of Covington with electricity in 1910.

click to view larger

According to a close community source, St. Tammany Ice & Manufacturing Co., Ltd, was a powerful aggressive service business serving the Covington area. This business manufactured and  delivered ice to the businesses and residences in and about Covington and it also shipped ice in box cars to other communities in this area. 

The company also installed a waterworks system in the streets of Covington serving the businesses and residences with good water from deep wells.  Next came the  need for electricity in this area so the company  came forward and installed the equipment to generate electrical current and built  the lines and other service outlets to deliver electrical current to the businesses and residences in the Covington area. 

This service expanded to  cover Abita and Mandeville as well. According to Lawrence Frederick when the motor car trolley was liquidated in 1918 the St Tammany Ice and Manufacturing Company purchased the right of way and electric lines. He wrote “This line was maintained to supply electric current to Mandeville and Abita from the Covington plant.” 

But in addition to these services the company was instrumental in  establishing many other businesses in St. Tammany  Parish. The company was headed and managed and  mostly owned by Edward A. Frederick and Maurice P. Planche, both of Covington. These two men were active in the economic, social and political growth of Covington and the area of west St. Tammany Parish.

Here is an article about the company published in 1919.

click to view larger

Inside the building were a crew of men tending to the big electric generator, which had a big flywheel to keep it running smoothly. 

Above is an advertisement from a 1911 St. Tammany Farmer Newspaper

St. Tammany Ice and Manufacturing Company Ltd., Covington, La., began on Rutland Street between Florida street and North Lee Road. It outgrew this facility and built a new plant.

It housed the ice manufacturing machinery and tanks, and cold storage facility. The plant added the Production of Electric D.C. Current with steam driven generators. Current generated from these projects was transmitted over the lines to homes and to businesses in and about Covington. 

This facility was later expanded to include Abita Springs and Mandeville, as the industry progressed this plant was compelled to convert to alternating current and purchased diesel engines and alternating generators and installed them. This change also demanded the use of different transmission lines and the installation of transformers along the lines. 

Their personnel had to be trained in the use of this new machinery and material. The company had to secure a franchise with the several towns which it supplied electric current to. This company also served the Covington area with water supply and had to install and maintain the pipe lines and the pumps needed to pump the water and to maintain sufficient pressure for normal use and for fire protection. 

This was a stock company but was primarily owned and operated by E. J. Frederick and M.P. Planche. They furnished the inspiration and often the financial backing and promotional activity for many other businesses in the Covington area.

St. Tammany Ice & Manufacturing Company also had the largest flowing water well in the State of Louisiana.   The building was located at 500 N. Theard Street, where “The Market” now stands across the street from the southern end of the new parish courthouse.

The Deep Water Well Supplying Covington

This new well was the largest flowing water well in the state of Louisiana. It was drilled in excess of 2000 feet and flowed 400 gallons per minute. The water was used for the plant and to supply the town of Covington with water for its water system. The St. Tammany Ice and Manufacturing Co. installed the water mains, the property connections, water meters and operated the entire waterworks system. 

Also fire hydrants were placed along the mains. The pumping plant had special fire pumps to increase the water pressure into the mains at time of a fire. On two corners in the center of town large reservoirs were dug underground and stored thousands of gallons of water to support the fire pumps in these area.


It was located on Theard between 25th Ave. and 26th Ave. (Ruby on the map)

Dr. John R. Vercellotti of Covington recalls that “Jules Vergez had a better feel for the technologically advanced components (of installing electric wiring). The Vergez family lived right across the street from the St. Tammany Ice and Manufacturing Co., which became the first electricity-producer in the area. The company needed the electricty to make ice, and nobody else in the area was making electricity, so Jules talked them into letting him run a wire from the plant over to their house where it powered a single light bulb hanging down from the ceiling of his mother’s kitchen.”  As a result, Mrs. Vergez had the first residential electric light in Covington. “That was really something, and they always laughed about that,” Vercellotti said. 

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Local History

Local History: Major Fires in Covington 1898-1920

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Covington History segment provided by local historical writer Ron Barthet.
View Ron’s blog Tammany Family here.

The aftermath of one of the downtown Covington fires

In the early years of the 20th century, the city scape of Covington underwent significant changes because of fires raging through the downtown area. Four fires between 1898 and 1911 changed the character of Covington’s central business district. 

During his research projects with the Covington Heritage Foundation, Jack Terry has come across a great deal of information about these fires, using early Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, newspaper accounts of the time, and census records to document the damage these fires did to specific buildings and downtown Covington as a whole.   

The first fire to destroy a significant portion of downtown Covington was on November 11,1898.  This fire which started in the Town Hall which was in the middle of the block bounded by Columbia, Boston, Rutland and Florida.  The New Orleans Daily States of Nov 11, 1898, provides details of the buildings that were destroyed on Columbia, Boston, Rutland and Florida streets as a result of the fire. 

Click on the images and newspaper articles to see them in a larger size. 

 According to the St Tammany Farmer all of the buildings burned with the exception of a brick building owned by Hardy Smith were frame structures and represented little value.  

Frame construction was the norm in Covington.  It wasn’t until mid-1905 that the city passed an ordinance that required the approval of detailed plans for any building or repair that cost more than $50.00.  

Nevertheless by 1909 the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map of Columbia street between Boston and Rutland showed frame construction was still the norm.  Only four of the buildings damaged in the 1898 fire were reconstructed with bricks by 1909.  

The second serious fire that devastated portions of downtown Covington occurred August 23, 1906.  According to newspaper accounts the fire started in the store of Mr. W. N. Patrick on Columbia street.  The fire spread across the street and destroyed Preston Burns store, home and cottage located at the NW corner of Lockwood and Columbia as well as a number of other buildings on Columbia between Gibson and Kirkland. 

Map of Buildings Damaged Along Columbia Street in 1906

According to the newspaper account of this fire, the City of Covington had no fire engine and citizens fought the fire with buckets and by dynamiting a number of smaller buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.  Merchants resorted to a technique of having the citizens remove stock from their building to limit fire damage. The buildings on Columbia street at this time were still of wooden frame construction and the value of these commercial building were in many cases less than the merchandise held in the store for sale.  For example, Bernard Barrere leased the two-story wooden frame building on Columbia Street in June, 1904 for $30 per month.

In October 1908, the citizens created the Covington Benevolent and Fire Protective Association for the protection of their properties from fire losses.  Emile Beaucoudray was elected Chief of the fire department and J. L. Smith elected assistant chief.  In early 1909 the fire company decided to procure a fire engine for the Bucket Brigade at a cost of $750.   Covington’s new fire engine was guaranteed to force water through 1500 feet of hose a distance of 160 feet. 

Nevertheless, the new fire department had serious problems fighting the third significant fire to strike Covington in less than 12 years.  The Covington House hotel located on Rutland caught fire and spread rapidly because strong winds.  The fire also consumed the Masonic hall, several cottages, and the warehouse of the Jones and Pickett Company.  

According to an October 30th article in the St Tammany Farmer the fire department was hampered by an insufficient supply of water caused by the incompatibility of the two and one eight couplings on the fire plugs with the two-inch fire hoses and obstructions in  a second line.  Only a wind shift and the dedicated work of the volunteer fire fighters kept this fire from spreading to the entire business district.

The fourth and most disastrous fire to devastate Covington occurred on June 12, 1911.  The photograph above shows Columbia street prior to start of the fire.  According to newspaper accounts the fire started in the barn of Joseph Brocato’s by children playing with matches.  The fire department attempted to contain the fire near Brocato’s store however it soon spread to the adjoining two story Frederick building.  The combination of a brisk breeze, an inadequate supply of water, intense heat and fears that the Frederick building would collapse on the firefighters resulted in the fire spreading across Columbia street and destroying all the buildings on both sides Columbia between Boston and Rutland. In addition, the fire jumped Rutland street and destroyed the Masonic Temple recently rebuilt after the 1909 fire and a cottage owned by Frederick and Singletary.  

The fire also jumped Boston street to the Wherli building directly across from the Frederick building.  Firefighters however prevented this building from burning and spreading to the wood frame buildings on that side of Columbia by using water from a tank H J Smith constructed for protection of his store. 

Local newspapers articles shown below provide more detail about of this devastating fire and the businesses impacted by the fire.  

The map below shows the location of businesses and homes destroyed in the fire on the 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

By 1915 the Frederick building, the Covington Bank and Trust bank, and a one-story H H Smith building were restored and are major attractions in present day historic Covington.   From the records, it is unclear if the restoration used the burned-out shell of these buildings in their reconstruction.

Then, again in 1920, there was another major fire in downtown Covington, this one close to the Southern Hotel building. Read about it in the newspaper article below. Click on the image to enlarge the view. 

As a result of fires, natural disasters and demolition very few late 19th century buildings remain in downtown Covington’s Historic District.

Some of the early fire hydrants can still be seen around Covington. (Photos by Jack Terry)
Local News

Sparks FROM the Park Firework Show This Friday – Update

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In lieu of the traditional Sparks in the Park 4th of July celebration the city has announced an alternative ‘Sparks FROM the Park’ – A fireworks show from the Bogue Falaya Park! The show starts at 9 pm on Friday, July 3rd.

From Mayor Mark’s e-newsletter:

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However, the show will go on. The pyrotechnics will be fired from nearer the front of the park … our test launch Monday night showed one could see them from various places around downtown and the Division of Spring. Bring your chairs, a beverage (no glass) and relax. New Hampshire Street from Boston to Theard and Boston to Rutland will be closed to allow for chairs and proper social distancing.

Lake 94.7 will be syncing the music accompaniment with the fireworks … so tune-in for the full effect. To listen, download their app from the App Store or Google Play.

Heavy traffic immediately following the show is a realistic expectation. Perhaps prepare to hang out for a bit after the show, letting a few folks get out of town. Slow your roll, slow your pace and enjoy CovLA

Sign up to receive updates from Mayor Mark himself: CovLA Website – sign up for Mayor Mark’s E-mails

Have a Happy & Safe 4th of July!

General Healthy Living Local Events Local News

“Burns Night” at the English Tea Room & Eatery Friday, January 22, 2016

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The English Tea Room & EateryThe English Tea Room & Eatery celebrates the birth and works of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. The night features Bagpipes, haggis and traditional Scottish toasts!  Costumes are encouraged but not required, gift cards will be awarded to the best dressed.  Reservations are $35 per person, Friday, January 22nd from 7 – 9 p.m.                         985-898-3988                 




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Tis the Season to Shop Local! Support Your Local Businesses This Holiday Season.

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tis the season (2)

The English Tea Room & Eatery

The English Tea Room & Eatery

The English Tea Room and Eatery presents a special Christmas High Tea in December, featuring a full tea experience with festive additions for $25. Boasting a selection of over 200 loose leaf teas available for purchase, The Tea Room is your place to shop all things tea, including standard and non-conventional tea pots, tea sets, cups, saucers & more! Open Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 6 pm, Christmas Eve 9 am – 3pm, closed Christmas.

english tea room tea & scones 2


History Antiques & InteriorsJust a small example of the unique and personalized gifts you may find for that special someone at History Antiques & Interiors.

Pictured below is “Stories of a River Town” by local historian Howard Nichols.  Standing nearby, a set of elegantly rustic monogrammed stemless glassware.  History Antiques & Interiors is located at 317 N. Columbia Street in Historic Downtown Covington.

history holiday gift ideas



Local News Shop Local

The English Tea Room Features Live Music Five Days A Week For Lunch

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The English Tea Room & Eatery now features live music five days a week (M-F) during lunch, 12 – 2 p.m.  Monday and Fridays, enjoy the classical harp music of Judy B. Seghers.  On Tuesdays, Robin Rorie and Phil Jordan are the jazzy Radiophonic Players.

On Wednesday, Timothy Gates plays mellow acoustic guitar, and on Thursdays relax with a cup of tea while Simona Gronic plays violin.  Simona Gronic has been playing the violin since she was 5 years old.  A native of Romania, Simona has traveled in Europe, Russia, Middle East, and the U.S., performing solo and in orchestras.

Violinist Simona Gronic

Violinist Simona Gronic

Simona has a Bachelor’s in Music from the Academy of Music in Moldova, and a Master’s in Violin Performance from Southeastern Louisiana University.  She currently performs with the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, freelancing in the south Louisiana area while maintaining a private studio.

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Lee Lane Martini Contest & Whimmsey Shoppe During Spring for Art 2015

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Lee Lane Martini Contest 2014 - Seiler Bar martini prep

Lee Lane Martini Contest 2014 – Seiler Bar martini prep

The popular Mix Masters’ Martini Contest returns to Lee Lane during Spring For Art 2015, sponsored by A Taste Of Covington! Sample unique martinis created by local bartenders and amateur mixologists. The Martini Contest takes place at the 200 block of Lee Lane at 6:30 p.m. Enjoy the classic jazzy tunes of Steppin’ Up while you sip and shop! Right around the corner on Rutland, you’ll find The Whimmsey Shoppe, featuring artwork by Aaryn Crews, Lu Griffin-Tucker, Nancy Wolf-Kimberly and Valree Berle. 985-400-5791

Whimmsey Shoppe

Local Events Local News

St. Paddy’s Parade in Downtown Covington This Weekend

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St. Patty's flier 2015-1The first Rutland Street St. Paddy’s Parade will be held this Saturday, March 14th right here in downtown Covington! The parade will begin on Lee Lane at 2:30 pm and continue down on Rutland Street to New Hampshire Street, culminating at Jewel’s Cigar & Briar Shop for their annual St. Paddy’s Party. Parade participants include Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, Grand Marshall Grayhawk Perkins, the Covington Bike Club, the Mellow Mushroom mobile and bagpipe players. The parade will include traditional throws such as cabbage and carrots. All are invited to join in the fun – wear your green!

St Paddy's DayCorned Beef & Cabbage March 14th, 16th & 17th!

The English Tea Room will continue their popular tradition of selling corned beef & cabbage for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday! The meal includes traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage, potatoes & carrots with a cheddar cheese scone for $12. Served each day from 9 am until they sell out! Call ahead for take-out pickups and dine in reservations. 985-898-3988


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COPA Debuts “The Butler Did It” – Community Theater Aspect Unique to Downtown

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Center of Performing Arts

Center of Performing Arts, Corner of Columbia & Rutland

Just about a year ago, Robert Sturcken debuted “This Stage of Love,” a play he wrote and produced for the Center of Performing Arts, his studio/educational/performing arts arena.  COPA is located at the corner of Columbia and Rutland, on the south end of the Heritage Bank building.  When Sturcken installed a full stage and lighting set up, he envisioned building a true community theatre that could host established productions as well as plays by relatively unknown but talented local writers.The Butler Did It - COPA

After several successful musical and stage productions, COPA continues the community theater vision with James Lejeune’s “The Butler Did It.”  Lejeune is a recent graduate of SLU and a resident of Springfield, LA.   COPA is happy to announce one final dinner event for the year, with a murder mystery spin! On Friday, November 7th, come see the stage debut of local playwright James Lejeune’s comedic whodunit, The Butler Did It! Follow the antics of six quirky butlers in this fast-paced murder mystery. COPA will feature a hearty dinner salad with your choice of either grilled chicken or shrimp, served with rolls and butter. Coffee and dessert served at intermission! Free water and soda, cash bar available.  Tickets and more information on upcoming productions are available on their website:

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Jewel’s Cigar & Briar Shop St. Patty’s Party: Featuring Rocky Patel Cigars & Traditional Celtic Music

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Bagpipers Jewels St PattysedJewel’s Cigar & Briar Shop will once again host a St. Patty’s Day Party on March 15 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The English Tea Room is joining the party by sponsoring Bagpipers, Toad Hollow will be providing Covington Brewhouse ales and specialty beverages. Jewel’s will be featuring Rocky Patel Cigars, and the Abita Blues Band will close out the evening. Come out and celebrate your Irish side, even if you’re not Irish!