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ALLEN, NATHANIEL SYKES (1829-1922) Architect Nathaniel Sykes Allen changed the appearance of Shreveport, Louisiana after his arrival in the 1870s. Over 300 residential, commercial, civic, federal, educational, and religious structures within the city exhibited his influence and expertise. In addition to his architectural work, Allen contributed to his community through his participation in local events and development and membership in local organizations.

Allen was born in Ellicott City, Maryland on August 7, 1829 to William and Ciscelia B. Allen. He studied architecture at the School of Designs in Baltimore, Maryland, and when he was about thirty-years-old, he moved to Marshall, Texas. He left his architectural business there to serve four years in Confederate service during the Civil War. Although he entered as a private in Company A of the 14th Texas Infantry out of Marshall, he eventually received a promotion to major.

Allen's daughter, Mattie, recalled that the family moved from Marshall to Shreveport, Louisiana in January 1870 and that Allen continued his architectural work in this new location. In 1898, Allen stated that he had designed 308 structures since 1870 and that many of these were in Shreveport. Most of these structures have been lost to time and development, and although some of Shreveport’s standing structures are thought to be Allen’s work, only a handful of them can be documented. These include the Antioch Baptist Church, dedicated in 1902 at 1057 Texas Avenue; the Line Avenue School, built in 1905 at 1800 Line Avenue; the Logan Mansion, built in 1897 at 725 Austin Place; the Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1899 on Texas Avenue; and the Slattery House, completed in 1904 at 2401 Fairfield Avenue.

Allen had other interests besides architecture. As a talented violinist, he organized the first local orchestra, gave concerts at Tally’s Opera House, and composed his own music, including the "Shreveport Reel." He also actively participated in local organizations. Following the Civil War, Allen served as one of the original members of the General LeRoy Stafford Camp #3 of United Confederate Veterans. He assisted in the formation of numerous fraternal lodges in and around Shreveport and played a part in introducing the International Order of Odd Fellows and the International Order of Redmen to the area.

Cataracts and complications with his eyes forced Allen into early retirement. In 1908, when the problems first appeared, Shreveport did not have a surgeon who could remove a soft cataract. Allen suffered for ten years before an operation in 1918 removed the cataract, which had become hard. By that time, Allen had become elderly and unable to continue his architectural endeavors. Allen died at the age of ninety-three at midnight on Friday, July 6, 1922 after a battle with pneumonia. The funeral occurred the following morning with an eleven o'clock service at the Allen residence at 226 McNeill Street under the direction of Presbyterian minister, Dr. Jasper K. Smith. Allen's daughter, Mattie, remembered that "[t]he City roped off two streets near [the house] – that he might leave in quiet and in peace." He was buried in Forest Park Cemetery along St. Vincent Avenue in Shreveport with his wife, Martha Carroll Allen, who died in 1906. Upon his death, the local newspapers hailed Allen as the "world’s oldest Odd Fellow and Shreveport's oldest voter," as he had voted consistently since 1850.

Monica Pels

Bibliography: Eric J. Brock. Eric Brock's Shreveport (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2001); N.S. Allen Family Papers, Collection 144, Northwest Louisiana Archives, Noel Memorial Library, Shreveport: Louisiana State University.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

"ALLEN, NATHANIEL SYKES" Handbook of North Louisiana Online (http://www…….), accessed …………. Published by LSU-Shreveport.

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