RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - If you know anything about forestry, chances are you've heard of Henry Hardtner, the man considered the premier pioneer of reforestation.
“He’s the father of southern forestry," said Jim Barnett, historian and volunteer at Southern Forestry Heritage Museum (SFHM). "People started coming from all over the world to try to understand what he was doing."
Hardtner started a saw mill in Urania in the early 20th century, and soon took issue with how much of Louisiana’s forests had been clear cut. So, he turned to reforestation.
"He was one of the first lumbermen that decided, ‘hey we could grow another crop of pine trees, that would be economically feasible to do,’" said Barnett.
A few decades down the road, and forestry is now the number one crop in the state. So when the SFHM got its hands on Hardtner's old office building, they jumped on an opportunity.
"Along this wall is the story of why we needed sustainable forestry and his contribution to it," explained Barnett.
The Henry Hardtner Exhibit is now open to the public, including a replication of Hardtner's old office.
"Of course we have a typical lumberman desk,” said Barnett. “And he was a Mason and so all the wood was inlaid by hand. And all the lumber is different species of wood that they used. So it's typical of what a lumberman would have back at the early 20th century."
The exhibit came along with the help of the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana Forestry Association (LFA).
"We're just happy that this is an attraction for the museum,” said Jeff Zeringue, LFA. “It's not anything that might be as popular or well-noted as others. But it is a real gem of history in this area and more particularly with the forest projects industry.
On Tuesday, SFHM held a ceremony for the opening. There was even a few family members there, excited to see the building in use once again.
"I do remember it,” expressed Henry Blake, Hardtner’s grandson. “And that's why this is so important to me. That we're able to keep this house, restore it, bring it up here so it can be used, seen, and all of that."
SFHM said it's just a small gesture for the father of forestry in the south.
"Amazing, amazing guy," said Barnett.