Our first stop was Port Hudson. a Civil War battle site that was, and still is, the location of the longest continuous siege in American Military History. "There have been other longer battles and engagements but not in the traditional sense." I'll leave that statement for you military buffs to explain. Controlling the Mississippi River was a major part of the strategy in the Civil War. The South needed the River to transport supplies and the North wanted to prevent it. The Union had already gained control of the Mississippi in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Vicksburg so this was the last port to give them control of the River. Once that happened the Confederates were unable to get supplies or reinforcements. Now that's ALL I know or care to know about Port Hudson, and by tomorrow I won't even know that much.
On to St. Francisville, a little town known for quiet life and historic homes, churches, shops, restaurants and courthouse on the the national historic registry. It's in the Parish of West Feliciana which also includes several plantation homes we drove around but didn't tour today. We're trying to figure out the best places to go when family comes and don't have a ton of time. The one place I wanted to go but forgot about was to see the national bald-cypress tree, the largest tree in North America east of the California Redwoods. It's on Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, and if they'd put Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge on the map we were using, we might have remembered to go there! Here are some of the things we DID see, because THEY were on the map.
Of course, the first thing Marc wanted to do was check out this home that was for sale. I think the man likes blue houses with white pillars, wrap around porches and gables. Not to worry. I'm not moving to Louisiana permanently. This house is selling for $800,000 and would probably take another $300K to renovate it. But it's very cute!
The beautiful courthouse is part of the Historic District, although not as old as many of the other buildings. It was built in 1905. The statue in front is a Confederate memorial statue.
The Grace Church is the second older Episcopal church in Louisiana. It's Gothic architecture and was built around 1858. But we were more interested in the ironwork of the gates and fences and also the gardens and trees. Spring has arrived in Louisiana and it exceeds my expectation of beauty.
This is a very typical Cajun home that we passed while driving through town. There's been an interesting progression of homes that led to this particular style. When the Acadians first arrived in Louisiana they put up temporary shelters made of wood and palmetto leaves similar to what the Native Americans had been building for years. They had a pole frame and the palmettos were used on the roof. First generation homes were primarily used in 1765-1795.
The second generation homes (up to 1827) were more substantial and often put wood vertically into the ground for the walls. Gaps between walls were filled with a mud and straw or moss mixture. Roofs were shingles or wood. The homes were built directly on the ground.
The Acadians finally learned that building wooden homes on the ground was not the way to go. Insect damage and occasional flooding were very inconvenient. They noticed that the Creole homes were often built off the ground. This kept the home from water and insects and helped provide better ventilation. They were built on pillars of wood or brick. They were small, maybe 15' by 25' in size with galleries (a fancy name for porch) and chimneys made of bousillage (the mud/moss mix) then later from bricks. If you were lucky enough to have a 2 room home the chimney was often between the rooms.
By the mid-1800s, the common Acadian house was a larger version of the 3rd generation. The gallery was in front and sometimes the back for 2 reasons. It gave them a place to sit and cool off and socialize. It also allowed for a taller roof to provide room for storage and sleeping quarters. There were stairs to the attic, and the upstairs sleeping area for the boys was called the garconniere. As families grew a separate but connected building was often built for kitchen space or bedrooms. Windows had no glass but were covered by wooden shutters. It was common to have 2 front doors opening to a family room and kitchen on one side and a bedroom for the parents and daughters on the other. Now you know more than you ever hoped to know about Cajun or Acadian homes, and wasn't that a lot more interesting than Port Hudson?
Rosedown Plantation. We decided to come back when the roses are in bloom--maybe sometime in May or June. They're probably not as prolific and beautiful as Marc's roses, but we're going to give them the opportunity to compete for 1st place!
Catalpa Plantation is a smaller home that wasn't open today for tours, but the driveway into the home is SPECTACULAR!!!
A few shots of the Afton Villa Gardens. The home burned down in 1963 and only the gardens remain. After paying our $10 we found that we were competing with 2 weddings, so our stay was shorter than planned. The gardens are truly picturesque. And the sun dial was right on time. It said 11:30, which would be correct if we weren't on daylight time. Maybe it should be moved to Arizona or Hawaii where they have some sense about time. This might be my favorite picture of the day. Just imagine what could be done with something besides an iPhone. The moss was perfectly framing the partially sunken little row boat. Yup! That's a great picture:)