Add an Article Add an Event Edit

Schepis Museum

Schepis Museum
106 Main Street


A long-forgotten Italian heritage has been rediscovered in a grand way in the quaint historic riverboat town of Columbia in Northeast Louisiana. Nearly 100 years ago, when Columbia was s bustling steamboat settlement on the banks of the Ouachita River, the first block of Main Street was alive with activity. Most of the shopkeepers were of Italian descent. Now, with Main Street's revival, new businesses have cropped up in old buildings and there is much activity once again.

The focal point of much of what has been done to revive Columbia is centered around "The Schepis  Building". Built c.1916, the building is specifically Italian, resembling Renaissance-style palazzos of the mid-fifteenth century. Complete with its two life-size statues on top, the tall, imposing structure, which sits practically at the base of the levee, is more reminiscent of a grand opera structure than the simple general mercantile store it was built to house.

That may very well have been what John Schepis, an architect from Sicily, was thinking of as he carefully molded the stones to build his palace, and the statues  that would ultimately stand atop it, proud and triumphant over time. The statues are of George Washington, holding a draped American flag, and Christopher Columbus, holding a draped Italian flag. An American eagle flies above them, and an Italian coat of arms is placed in the center. Schepis fashioned the statues in concrete, then hoisted them up onto the roof with a gin pole, block and line, and set them in mortar on the top of his new building. It became a fine and fitting showplace for his new business - a mark of Schepis' pride in his new country, and love for his old country.

Over the years, the Schepis Building has been many things, from a mercantile store to a feed and seed, even a skating rink. But the building was deserted in the mid-1970's, its doors and windows were boarded up and the floor gave way, revealing the dirt foundation. Even when it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, it was in sad shape, but a grant awarded in 1993 by the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation and matched by the Caldwell Parish Industrial Development Board provided the last chance for survival for this reminder of Italian immigration to Louisiana.

It has once again assumed a proud and important role on Columbia's Main Street as the Schepis Museum, showcasing the pride and talents of Caldwell Parish and northeast Louisiana..