Updated: May 4, 2022
On this day after Easter let me give you a perfect reason to stop in Monroe, Louisiana when you're traveling along I-20. It's a place with a funny name but a fascinating story and much to see when you arrive. The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens consist of a large Museum Store, soda shop, collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, mansion, Bible museum, and immaculate gardens.
MUSEUM & MUSEUM STORE
So, from what I learned, Coca-Cola was originally created by Dr. John S. Pemberton in Atlanta in 1886 but was only sold as a fountain drink until 1894. That was when Joseph A Biedenharn had the idea to bottle the drink, and he began his bottling operation in Vicksburg, Mississippi. There is a difference between owning the formula/recipe for Coke and being a bottler. The Biedenharns were BOTTLERS -- which, of course, revolutionized the ability to distribute the product in far-reaching ways. Joseph Biedenharn stayed in Vicksburg until 1914 when he moved his family and the Coca-Cola bottling operation to Monroe, Louisiana.
At the beginning of your tour, which begins at 2000 Riverside Drive in Monroe, you will have a chance to browse the memorabilia, pick up a momento of your visit, and purchase a 5-cent Coke to enjoy while your guide goes through some of the history. The vending machine ONLY TAKES NICKELS, so go prepared.
Next stop is the Biedenharn mansion that looks today the way it looked when Joseph's daughter Emy-Lou, the last family member to live in the house, left it. Original furnishings and all. She inherited great wealth from her father but was also an acclaimed opera singer in her own right. You'll be able to see her personality and preferences on vivid display.
The next building houses Emy-Lou's extensive Bible collection. Some are rare, some are historically important, and some are works of art. I especially appreciated the Stations of the Cross bronze sculptures created by Gib Singleton -- a graphic depiction of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Outside are lovely formal English gardens and a lush greenhouse. The sound of the splashing fountain and the happy birds make this a peaceful place to spend some time.
I strongly recommend that you put this attraction on your itinerary. Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. And, as a happy serendipity, the other couple on our tour turned out to be wonderful Baptist folks from Mobile, and we learned we have some friends in common. Very cool.