Foundation to honor outstanding preservationists, volunteer

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana will honor a group of outstanding preservationists and its 2013 Volunteer of the Year at its 25th annual Preservation Awards and Dinner July 31 at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.

This year’s honorees are the Baton Rouge High School Foundation, Rita Lynn Erwin Jackson, Samuel C. Hyde Jr., Darryl Gissel and Lance Bennett and Ben Babin. Charles Calandro will be recognized as the 2013 Volunteer of the Year at the event.

The Baton Rouge High School Foundation is being honored for its advocacy efforts in preserving Baton Rouge High School, which moved to its current Government Street location in 1927. In 2007, after the building had fallen into disrepair, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system considered demolishing the campus, selling the land and moving the school. The foundation, through the school alumni, advocated for the preservation of the historic school, which was renovated and reopened in 2012.

Jackson, of Plaquemine, is a certified genealogist with a master’s degree in library science from LSU. She has contributed to several books, including “Iberville Parish Cemeteries” and “Iberville Parish History” and is a contributor to Le Comité, a nonprofit genealogical support group for the Louisiana State Archives. In 2011, she won the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal for her work with the Iberville Museum as volunteer project director for “People of Iberville” and the “Images of Iberville” series. At the museum, she created the “Preserving Our Past Through Our People” program with a grant from Dow Chemical.

Hyde holds the Leon Ford Endowed Chair in Regional Studies and is director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. He is president of the Gulf South Historical Association, author or editor of seven books on the Florida Parishes and is a successful screenwriter. He makes frequent guest appearances on the History and Discovery channels. From 2010-2011, Hyde served as chairman of the West Florida Republic Bicentennial Commission and coordinated the West Florida Republic Trail, which placed nine markers across the region detailing events of the West Florida Revolt.

Gissel is owner and broker of Oak Real Estate, which specializes in historic and inner-city properties. Since 1980, he has actively renovated 16 properties made up of 56 residential units and two office buildings in the Spanish Town and Beauregard Town Historic Districts. Gissel started the Spanish Town Civic Association Security Patrol, is a former board member of both the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association and the Beauregard Town Civic Association and served as chairman of the Spanish Town association. He is a former member of the Louisiana State Museum Board and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and served on the board and as chairman of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana. He is currently on the board of the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation and is chairman of the River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville.

Bennett and Babin are being recognized for their work in buying and restoring five Spanish Town houses, which, several years ago, were in danger of being demolished to make room for an apartment complex. In 2012, Bennett and Babin began their restoration, which preserved the integrity of the properties while they were updated for modern living.

Charles Calandro, of Calandro’s Select Cellars and Fine Wines, was named the 2013 Volunteer of the Year for his 10 years of service to the foundation by providing and serving hors d’oeuvres and wine for the foundation’s popular Heritage Lectures Series.