Ruston museum undergoing revitalization

By Charlette Hilton

What do one of Ruston’s most stately and recognizable homes and a transplanted New York/New Jersey native have to do with each other? One is filled with the memories, photographs and memorabilia of Ruston and the people who have loved and lived here since the 1800s.

The other came to the area as a young man full of dreams and a love for all things historical and fell in love with Ruston, its rich and colorful history, and the people who live here. How fitting that the two seemed fated to end up together.

In December of 1975, Mary Olive Davis Green and Charlotte Davis Parrott donated one of Ruston’s oldest landmarks, the Kidd-Davis house, to the Lincoln Parish Museum and Historical Society.

The Kidd-Davis house was constructed in 1886 by Milton B. Kidd and was occupied by his family until 1921. The Kidd family sold the house to the Robert Wesley Davis Family. The Kidd-Davis house has had many changes and additions over the years and has provided gracious living and entertaining quarters to many generations of Ruston families. Countless bridal showers, society meetings, field trips, and many other events have been held in the Kidd-Davis house since its donation in 1975. Photos, memorabilia and written histories now reside within its walls. Weddings, wedding receptions and many portrait sessions took place on the grounds underneath the recognizable gazebo.

However, in 2019, the catastrophic tornado ripped through Ruston and while the Kidd-Davis house survived, her gazebo did not, and the grounds were severely damaged. Right on the heels of the tornado came the pandemic which shut down all non-essential businesses, and that included the Kidd-Davis House.

During the two years since the doors closed, the Kidd-Davis house has fallen into a state of disrepair. Donated photos, furniture, memorabilia and items of historical significance have piled up and are in dire need of organization. The air conditioning system is failing and cannot adequately cool the house and most of the rooms need deep cleaning and freshening up. Quite frankly, the Kidd-Davis House needed a savior.

Right on cue entered Rick Godley with the energy and vision to fulfill that role beautifully. Godley, who was working in New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, made his way south following dreams of becoming a salesman and moved to New Orleans in 1981.

North Louisiana and the Piney Hills were part of Godley’s sales route, and during his many visits, he said he could not resist the lure of the town, the people and the history. Even as a young salesman in 1982, Godley made an impression on those around him. 

Godley, who recently left the world of radio, said he wanted to find new ways to meet his need to connect with the people, culture and history of Lincoln Parish.

“When I was in radio, I was all about local and helping people,” Godley said. “So, when I got out of radio, I was searching for what to do with my life.”

He did not have to search for long. He quickly realized that people were online for just about everything.

“They go online for news, music, social interaction and most information,” Godley said.

From this line of thinking, Godley came up with ATL, which stands for All Things Local, All Things Lincoln and even All Things Louisiana.

“ATL is for local businesses, local non-profits, local events, local real estate and the city of Ruston. If you can dream it, I can stream it,” Godley said.

It was Godley’s passion for Ruston and Lincoln Parish and the history and people who live here that spurred him to accept the position of director at the Lincoln Parish Museum and Historical Society.

“With all the changes and uncertainties of the past few years, we find that we have a unique opportunity to start over, a Second Renaissance if you will. In other words, we can create a remarkable future going forward for our museum,” said Godley. “Our museum is in desperate need of some TLC before we begin hosting exhibits and educational exhibits for our communities. Our goal is to get our house in order and be the epicenter of the Sesquicentennial of Lincoln Parish next year.”

The Sesquicentennial will be the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Lincoln Parish.

Even though Godley has a desire to revive the Ruston museum, he said he cannot do it alone. Volunteers and donations are a necessity in order to restore the museum and its secrets and memories.

“This is the time to turn the page in the history book of the Lincoln Parish Museum and Historical Society whereby we give thanks and revere our past, considering the present while we grow towards the future,” Godley said.

Godley has launched Operation Rapid Reboot, his plan for moving forward with renovating, cleaning and organizing the museum.

“Since 1975 the people in this community have helped sustain this precious resource and we are grateful. I am in the process of getting quotes for overall cleaning both inside and outside the building. We need funds for installing new energy efficient lights, landscaping, and the rebuilding of the gazebo. We also need to rejuvenate our gardens,” said Godley.

“I know people want to support this project. They already are and we are going to need active committees of leaders and doers. We need organizers, catalogers, grant writers, cleaners and people who are willing to take initiative and get things done.”

Those who wish to support the Lincoln Parish Museum and Historical Society and Operation Rapid Reboot are encouraged to reach out to Godley.

“I want to thank everyone in advance for helping launch the Second Renaissance of The Lincoln Museum and Historical Society,” he said. “Please feel free to reach out to me with any creative ideas to maximize our mission in the most efficient, expedient and effective way.”