Gattle to receive Community Service Award
Acadia Chapter, Daughters of the American Republic, will present Mrs. Kim Gattle of Crowley with the prestigious DAR Community Service Award for her outstanding work in the restoration of the Grand Opera House of the South. The presentation will be made on Thursday, March 11 at a ceremony with DAR members and invited guests present.
The presentation will take place at 3 p.m. at the Opera House.
This award, established in 1995, recognizes worthy residents from a variety of walks of life, for voluntary achievements in cultural, educational, humanitarian, patriotic, historical and citizenship endeavors, or in environmental conservation.
The recipient must have contributed to his/her community in an outstanding voluntary heroic, civic, or benevolent manner or have participated or organized community activities.
This award is not presented lightly. Since it is a national level award, the National Chairman of the committee administers the award process, and must give her approval before the award can be presented.
According to the Acadia Chapter chairman of the Community Service Award, Elaine Simon, Mrs. Gattle will be receiving the award in the area of Historical Preservation.
The Gielen family has already received recognition in a number of publications for their work on the restoration project. Most recently, according to the magazine, South Central Construction, published by McGraw Hill companies in December of 2009, The Grand Opera House of the South received the Judges’ Award in Design in the Louisiana Best of 2009 of Construction and Design Award.
Further recognition was given when the Times of Acadiana featured L.J. Gielen on the over of the October 10, 2007 issue with an article about the work on the Opera House. At the time, work was about 85 percent complete.
Among publication praising the Grand Opera House of the South restoration project was the Gulf South Business Corridor, a business publication. The Slemco Power magazine titled their article “Grand Opera House of the South,” with a sub-title “Gielen family helps raise the curtain again on a Crowley cultural jewel.”
Attention was given by yet another publication from the Louisiana State Historic Preservation office, ‘Preservation in Print.’ The April 2009 issue gave a little bit of Crowley history and the history of the building and praised the efforts of those involved in the restoration. A quote from the article said, “It was a hidden jewel box, an attic curiosity. Everyone knew it was there but few ever saw it. But now, thanks to the statewide and local efforts of many, the Grand Opera House of the South has been faithfully restored and open for performances. It is once again grand.”
In a brief synopsis of the history of the building, according to local history in 1898, David E. Lyons at the age of 29 bought the lot and began construction on the Grand. Three years later on November 23, 1901, at a cost of $18.000, this ornate and richly decorated theatre was completed. It continued in operation until Mr. Lyons died in 1940, and it was closed and more-or-less mothballed. It remained a closed-up space above a busy hardware store for decades.
In 1972, L.J. Gielen first saw the Opera House portion of the building and commented to his family, “We’re going to get this fixed up.”
This idea lay dormant for many years, as the Dixie Hardware changed owners several times.
Finally in 1999, it was purchased by the family of L.J. and “Chee Chee” Gielen.
According to the Slemco Power article, L.J. told his family, “We’re going to start the Opera House and you’re going to do it.”
In 2004, the building was donated to the Grand Opera House of the South, a nonprofit, complete with a board and executive director, all unpaid volunteers. L.J. said this was his family’s “gift to the community.” “...the family remained heavily involved, both emotionally and financially, in rebuilding the opera house.”
Kim Gielen Gattle, as the organization’s executive director, remained totally involved.
She attended New York University in 2000 to obtain the expertise and knowledge to professionally run the opera house. She has also worked closely with Jackie Lyle of PASA in Lafayette to learn all of the avenues in promoting cultural performances. It was stated that the Grand Opera House of the South was an eight-year multi-million dollar renovation. It reopened in September of 2009.
Through all this restoration project with the backing and support of her family, with help from the Louisiana legislature and local legislatures who helped to secure the funding, the architect and contractors and the great donors, there was one person at the helm who saw everything come together- Kim Gielen Gattle.
It is for all this effort on her part that the Acadia Chapter of DAR would like to present Kim Gattle with the Community Service Award, which she so richly deserves.