Women's History Month: Past, Present, Future in Monroe-West Monroe
Ouachita Parish is full of stories, legacies, and rich history. From iconic eateries to long-standing community landmarks, Monroe-West Monroe paints a beautiful picture of historic preservation and continuing legacies. However, many do not know the stories of the women behind some of our most beloved community treasures.
Layton Castle is one of Monroe’s most treasured hidden gems. With over 100 years of history behind it, the landmark remains in its original family. Previously operated and developed by the late Carol Layton Parsons, Layton Castle has stood the test of time and continues to do so. In the years of Parson’s oversight, the castle has become a renovated Monroe treasure that is home to several tenants in the apartments on the first floor. She is also responsible for utilizing the family heirloom as a venue for weddings, parties, and regular tours that educate the community on the history of Monroe and the castle’s founding. Carol’s daughter, Pam Parsons Dupuy, is now leading the charge in keeping the landmark’s legacy alive. The women of Layton castle have been the most valuable piece of this historic landmark’s preservation and are the reason it is still standing and operating here in Northeast Louisiana today.
Many have wined and dined at Park Avenue’s most iconic spot, Genusa’s Italian Restaurant. This Monroe gem, started by Francis and Cherry Genusa, is currently owned and operated by three generations of women in the Genusa family. Booming with business since 1967, this quintessential restaurant has grown through the labors of love brought on by Cherry, Rachel, and Ashley Genusa. With their passion for family and food at the center of it all, the Genusa ladies bring a whole new meaning to “keeping it in the family”. The ladies have worked hard to acquire a consistently rotating wine list, a plethora of loyal customers, and a legacy that has stood the test of time. Genusa’s Restaurant is the perfect example of a local matriarchal success.
The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens is a long-standing Monroe landmark. The history behind the museum’s founder, however, is even more striking than the landmark itself. Emy-Lou Biedenharn was the only daughter of Joseph Biedenharn, the man to first put Coca Cola in a bottle. After a lengthy singing career in Europe, Emy-Lou returned to her hometown of Monroe, Louisiana amongst the breakout of World War II. Emy-Lou faced many adversities in her lifetime. Born with a severe clubbed foot, she persevered and learned to dance, perform, and even mastered the proper court curtsy (a deep, floor length version of the greeting) to present to King George VI. She later built the ElSong (Emy-Lou’s Song) Gardens, inspired by the magnificent gardens that she visited during her European travels. She also began the Bible Museum and asked that the Biedenharn family home be turned into a museum upon her death- with everything in the home to remain exactly as she left it, as long as the museum stands. Ms. Biedenharn left behind a staggering legacy with the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Foundation, which supports the arts & education in Northeast Louisiana. Her contributions to the Museum’s founding and to the Monroe-West Monroe community continue to shape the future and highlight the history of Ouachita Parish.
Monroe-West Monroe would not be what it is today without the hard work, advocacy, and dedication of the women who helped build it.
1133 S. Grand Street
Monroe, LA 71202 (318) 322-4869
Layton Castle1133 S. Grand Street
Monroe, LA 71202
Genusa’s Italian Restaurant
815 Park Avenue
Monroe, LA 71202 (318) 387-3083
Genusa's Italian Restaurant815 Park Avenue
Monroe, LA 71202
Biedenharn Museum & Gardens
2000 Riverside Drive
Monroe, LA 71201 (318) 387-5281 Website
Biedenharn Museum & Gardens2000 Riverside Drive
Monroe, LA 71201