Kent House

history-kent_HouseHistoric Name: Charles Adolph Kent. House
Address: 701 Avenue E
City:  Kentwood
Parish:  Tangipahoa
State: LA
Zipcode: 70444
Status:  National Register
Date Placed on National Register:  10/30/1985
Level of Significance: Local
Area of Significance:  Industry
Property Type: Urban Residence
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Theme: Industry

The Kent House is a large frame Colonial Revival dwelling located in the old residential section of the small town of Kentwood. The architectural evidence indicates a c.1915 construction date. The house has been altered very little and hence easily represents the period of its historical significance.

The Kent House consists of a squarish main block and a rear wing. A gallery encompasses most of the exterior, beginning at the central front door and wrapping around to take in the rear wing. The main block has a wide central hall with two rooms on each side. The rear wing consists of a large dining room, a butler’s pantry, and a kitchen. Both the dining room and front parlor have projecting polygonal bays. The mass of the house is surmounted by a hip roof with hip dormers. The attic is one large room covered in beaded boards.

The plan and configuration of the house are very conventional for the period. But the detailing, most of which is Colonial Revival, does have one unusual twist. The heavily proportioned gallery has massive clapboard piers, each of which is flanked by a pair of Tuscan columns. each pier has an extra wide clapboard base which is designed to support the flanking columns. Other Colonial Revival details include the columnar front doorway, the golden oak mantel-overmantel sets, and the massive staircase with its decoratively paneled newel post. The high paneled wainscot in the dining room is a Queen Anne carryover. The interior door and window surrounds, with their bull’s eye cornerblocks, are Eastlake carryovers.

Since construction a small covered stair has been added in the rear and the bathroom and kitchen have received some modern alterations. These changes are, of course, minor, given the otherwise unaltered condition of the house.

Specific dates   c.1912-1929 (Kent’s period of significance)

Builder/Architect  Builder: Charles Adolph Kent, Sr.

Statement of Significance (in one paragraph)

Criterion B

The Kent House is locally significant in the area of industry because of its close association with Charles Adolph Kent, Sr., who contributed greatly to the early twentieth century growth and prosperity of the area’s dairy industry. Kent lived in the house until his death in 1949, and there are no other remaining structures in the Kentwood area directly associated with him.

Kentwood, a one-time sawmill boom town, was literally saved from becoming a ghost town by early twentieth century growth in the dairying industry Kentwood’s sawmill boom began in the 1880’s and died out in the late teens-early twenties. The burgeoning dairy industry provided the necessary “shot-in-the-arm” for the town’s economy. By the 1950’s Kentwood was being referred to as the “Dairy Center of the South,” and dairying continues to he the area’s principal industry.

Although the earliest successful dairymen in the Kentwood area are associated with the 1890’s, the parish’s dairy industry was not very large prior to about 1900. It is estimated that there were less than twenty producers who marketed milk in New Orleans in the late nineteenth century. Most of New Orleans’ milk was produced within the city limits and most Tangipahoa Parish dairymen marketed their milk only locally. Despite an 1899 Board of Health report exposing unsanitary conditions in New Orleans dairies, growth in the parish’s dairy industry remained slow until the mid-teens.

One of the individuals responsible for what would by the 1920’s become a dairy boom was Charles Adolph Kent, Sr., the son of the man for whom Kentwood was named. Kent’s first step was to add, in about 1912, a creamery to his Kentwood Ice Manufacturing and Bottling Works. According to Kent, it was the first successful creamery in Louisiana and Mississippi. A less biased secondary source notes that creameries were almost unknown in the South at this time.

In 1919 Kent entered into dairy products in their entirety, providing the dairy farmer an unlimited market for his entire production year round. In addition to shipping whole milk to New Orleans, the Kentwood plant produced all forms of condensed milk, catering especially to ice cream manufacturers throughout the South. By 1922 Kent was making $300,000 a year, and by 1928 sales increased to over one million dollars annually.

The production of milk tripled in Tangipahoa Parish from 1920 to 1923. In 1923 Kent’s plant (no longer extant) used 325,000 gallons of milk in the manufacture of its condensed products alone. A 1925 article in the Kentwood Chronicle revealed that an average of 1040 gallons of milk were shipped daily from Kentwood and 379,600 yearly. In addition, Kent’s plant purchased a daily average of 1800 gallons and 657,000 yearly. Although these figures do not take into account local consumption, they do reveal that Kent controlled a sizable chunk of the market. However, due to factors such as over-expansion, high costs, and the advent of the Depression, Kent Dairy Products, Inc. went bankrupt in late 1929, leaving a huge vacuum in the dairy farmer’s market opportunities.

Bibliography

Davis, Harold A. “The History of Dairying in Tangipahoa Parish.” Research paper submitted to Dr.  J. B. Frye, Head of the Dairy Department, Louisiana State University, August 1957. (The  section used in the preparation of this nomination was based largely upon research in local  contemporaneous newspapers.

Conveyance Records, Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse.

Kent, Charles Adolph Sr. Typed one page chronicle of his activities in the dairy business. Date unknown, but at least the late twenties because of dates given in the narrative. Found in the attic of Kent House along with other papers relating to his dairy operations. Copy in  Register file, Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office.

Kent, Charles Adolph Sr. Miscellaneous letters documenting some of his business activities such as shipments of ice cream mix, etc. In possession of owner of Kent House. Copies in Register file, Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office.

Owner’s personal communication with Athalee Kent Carroll, granddaughter of Charles Adolph Kent, Sr.

Tangipahoa Crossings: Excursions Into Tangipahoa History. Baton Rouge: Moran Publishing  Corporation, 1979.

“Kentwood: The Town That Bossy Saved,” Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, November 14, 1954.

Louisiana Municipal Review, December 1954. This issue has an article on Kentwood, the dairy  center.

Old photos of Kent Dairy Products, Inc. plant. In possession of owner of Kent House.