Denham Springs is the largest area of commercial and residential development in
Livingston Parish, and is the only parish municipality classed as a city. Its population
is approximately 10,200.
The city is situated in the area of the east-west highways US 190 and Interstate 12,
and the major north-south artery in western Livingston Parish, LA Hwy 16. Denham
Springs is also located on the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, an east-west line which
played a large role in the city's early development. The Amite River forms a portion of
the municipality's boundary, but the river at this point is not navigable except by small
Ground-water springs which come to the surface at the base of the low- lying ridge
which runs through the center of the city have figured in the city's name since at least
the 1850's. The area has been known as Amite Springs, Hill's Springs and, finally,
Denham Springs. The original land claims of John Noblet and Alexander Hogue form
what is now the older section of Denham Springs, including the first residential and
In 1828, William Denham, a Wilkinson County, Miss. native, married Mercy Hogue, the
daughter of Alexander Hogue, and three months later purchased the 640 acres
originally claimed by his father-in-law. Some published histories say William
Denham discovered the mineral springs on his property, buy that is unlikely, as the
number of people living there prior to his arrival very likely were aware of the springs
and used them for drinking water. On May 1, 1855, Denham sold the Hogue tract to
Stamaty Covas, a New Orleans businessman, for $3,050, and Denham eventually
moved to Baton Rouge and later to Texas. It has also been reported that Denham had
been a resort hotel owner, but the 1850 census lists his occupation as "farmer." A
health resort did flourish at Amite Springs, as the hamlet was known at that time, but
probably existed after Denham left the area.
Several newspaper articles and advertisements described the hotel and the facilities
which it offered. It is generally believed that the hotel was burned during the Civil War; however, an old post card obtained and exhibited at the Old City Hall Museum notes the specific date that the hotel burned was 1909. A New Orleans publication entitled “Men and
Matters” promoted the health-restoring properties of the spring water in a 1902 article
on Denham Springs. Some evidently believed the springs to be curative, because a
letter owned by the Lamar Cockerham family, addressed to Charles H. Thomas in
Hill Springs by his employer, W.J. Knox, president of the Bank of Baton Rouge, states,
"by the advice of your physician, you have gone to the springs...." Ivy Cockerham and J.
B. Easterly also built hotels in the area near what is now Spring Park on Tabernacle Street at River Road.".
Following the Civil War, the Hogue-Denham tract was sold to George L. Minton for
delinquent taxes. According to the 1882 act of sale, the land was bounded "east by
Chambers, south by Noblet, west by the Amite River, north by Allen, and known as the
Denham Springs tract." This points to the fact that although William Denham had
moved away nearly 30 years before, his name was still associated with the mineral
Minton, the first mayor of Denham Springs (1903) and founder of the Denham
Springs News, thus received title to much of what is now the downtown section of
Denham Springs. Conveyance records at the parish courthouse show that he then
began subdividing the tract and selling the lots for residences and businesses. By
this time, the large Noblet holdings were also being subdivided and sold to
newcomers, and the village that became Denham Springs began to grow.
First Post Office Established
In October, 1879, John Sullivan made an application for the establishment of a post
office north of the present city limits. The location of the office was given as one mile
south of Beaver Creek and one mile east of the Amite River on what is now La. Hwy.
1028 (River Road). Three names were considered for the post office: Pine Bluff,
Allen and Hill's Springs, and the Post Office Department chose the last name when it was
established on January 12, 1880.
By at least 1890, John R. Allen had become the postmaster and the office was moved
inside the present city limits. In 1894 it was situated in the northeast quarter of
Section 25, the section just north of the Hogue-Denham tract. On May 9, 1898, the
name of the post office was changed to Denham Springs. Popular belief has it that
this was only done to honor William Denham, but a local
resident at that time
recalled that the Post Office Department ordered the name changed because of
confusion with similar post office names in Louisiana, including Springhill, Spring
Ridge, and, in Livngston Parish, Springfield and Springville.
Collegiate Institute Founded
The development of the area as a resort and the construction of the Denham Springs
Collegiate Institute drew people to the community. The school, founded by a group or
residents in 1895, attracted boarders from miles around. It was located on River
Road at N. College Street, the site of the present Presbyterian Church. The property
was sold to the private school by George L. Minton. The first buildings included a
large meeting hall and a smaller frame structure.
The four-year institution was financed by tuition paid by students from Denham Springs and neighboring communities, and the board of directors was able to attract
teachers from as far away as Virginia. About 1908, the board of directors deeded the
property to the public school system, which was coming of age with the construction
of consolidated schools, and shortly thereafter, a two-story brick building was erected
on the same site. This was the beginning of Denham Springs High School, now
located on Range Avenue and the parish's largest senior high school.
Incorporation and Growth
On May 8, 1903, Gov. William W. Heard issued a proclamation incorporating the
village of Denham Springs to include Sections 25, 30, 44, 45, 58 and 59 in T6S-R2E
and T6S-R3E. Governor Huey Long designated Denham Springs as a town on Feb.
5, 1929, and Lt. Gov. Lethar Frazar, standing in for the Kingfish's brother Earl,
proclaimed Denham Springs to be a city on Sept. 5, 1957.
Several factors influenced the growth of Denham Springs after 1900, notably the
construction of an east-west railroad line, the growth of Baton Rouge as an industrial
center, and the corresponding improvement of roads which made Denham Springs a
desirable place for Baton Rouge workers to live. The Baton Rouge, Hammond
and Eastern Railroad Co., (later purchased by the IC line) was completed by the
Illinois Central railroad in early February, 1908 and the first train ran on Febuary 26.
Denham Springs almost missed being included on the route, however, as the
railroad company at one time considered bypassing the village, perhaps to force
some concessions on the local residents' part. A Dec. 20, 1905 article in the New
Orleans Daily Picayune stated engineers were surveying the route in Livingston
Parish with the view of making this change (away from the village).
The railroad made regular stops in the booming community and prompted the
gradual movement of businesses toward Range Avenue. Denham Springs became
the shipping hub of a large truck crop region, and the town that started as a health
resort added a sawmill and oar factory and many other businesses, and the current
downtown area along Range Avenue from Centerville Street to Railroad Avenue
developed as a bustling commercial district. Denham Springs became the
commercial and banking center of the parish, but, in the years following the advent of
the automobile, more and more residents found work in the Baton Rouge plants and
businesses. Denham Springs became a “bedroom” community, as many of its
townspeople began commuting to Baton Rouge to work and shop.
In the early 1970s, when Interstate 12 was built, the main commerce district moved
south towards the new highway. Many downtown businesses were shuttered and
remained so for many years until one or two, and then a few more antiques stores
opened in the area. Today, the Denham Springs Antiques & Art Village is known
throughout the South for its 20-plus antiques, art and boutique shops.
Constructed in the late 1930s and completed in 1940, Historic Old City Hall at 115 Mattie Street was rededicated and reopened to the public
on April 17, 2009.
The area of the original springs is part of the Springs Park located on River
Road. This beautiful city park with picnic and event pavilion is set under a canopy of mature, noble Oak trees. There is room to roam and a wooded path leads to the historic mineral springs for which the city is named. This property also leads to the Amite River.
-- Courtesy of Denham Springs Main Street