The grandiose Schepis building, built in 1916 has been the home of the Schepis Museum since 1993, and is the backdrop for the charming town of Columbia, which nestles along the banks of the Ouachita River. The building has become a centerpiece of the lives of the lives of the people who live here, from art and cultural events to board meetings and receptions.
The Schepis Museum operates under the leadership of the Schepis Foundation Board of Directors, and has one full-time museum curator and many loyal volunteers. Exhibits rotate every two months and the Schepis hosts art workshops, theatrical performances and concerts. The Schepis Museum currently owns five permanent exhibits and is in the process of developing an exhibit of artwork by Louisiana artists that will become a part of this collection.
Several fundraisers are held during the year by the volunteer group "Friends of the Schepis". The two largest events are the "Blend of the River" held the last Saturday in April and "High Tea at the Schepis" held every February.
The building has been restored to its original splendor, just as it was when it was imagined so long ago by its designer and builder, John Schepis.
Schepis, an architect, and his wife, Rosa Schepis, a Grand Opera singer, emigrated from Sicily around the turn of the century to the bustling steamboat settlement known as Columbia. After establishing himself as a general mercantile store owner, Schepis began work on the building that stands today, working to display the craftsmanship that is only a glimpse of the love he had for his new community and his love for his birthplace in Italy.
The building is specifically Italian, resembling Renaissance-style palazzo of the mid-fifteenth century. The Schepis building is complete with two life-size statures on top hand-crafted by Schepis himself. The statues are George Washington, holding a draped American flag, and Christopher Columbus, holding a draped Italian flag. An American eagle flies above them, and an Italian coat of arms is placed in the center. The unique building is a testament to the brilliance and tenacity of an Italian immigrant whose mark on this little town along the Ouachita River will stand forever.
Longtime citizens of Columbia have fond memories of Rosa opening all the doors and windows upstairs and playing her piano-fanciful tunes from classical to ragtime - for all to hear. And, thanks to outside speakers added to the Schepis Museum, the piano music of Rosa Schepis can still be heard on the 100 block of Main Street, weekday afternoons, between 3:30 and 4:30.
The building was deserted in the 1970's and was still in extreme disrepair when placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. A grant was awarded in 1993 by the Louisiana Division of Historic Places and matched by the Caldwell Parish Industrial Development Board, beginning the structure's rise from near ruin to future restoration projects, giving the Schepis Building a proud and important role in Columbia.
The building is now part of the lifeblood of the town and the community. It offers a glimpse of the history of the town while assuming a proud and important role for the people who live here. It is truly a monument to Columbia's history and a window to its future.
The Schepis Building is available to rent as well. Whether it be for a wedding, meeting, class/family reunion we can accommodate your event needs. Contact the Schepis Director/Curator for more information.
106 Main Street
Columbia, Louisiana 71418
P.O. Box 743, Columbia, LA 71418
Hours: Monday-Friday 9AM - 5 PM