Remember when life was a little easier, and the pace was a little slower? Remember when neighbors visited each other and saw not just houses, but homes that were built to individual taste and furnished with style? If you’re ready to experience that time again, Natchitoches has just the thing for you.
During the weekend of October 9th through 11th, the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) will host its 61st annual Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes. Whether you’d like to visit homes dating back to the 1700s, the centerpiece house of the movie “Steel Magnolias,” a modern townhouse situated in an early 1900’s building, or early plantation homes, the tour has homes for you to see.
The three-stage tour starts on Friday evening at 7:00pm with showings of the Metoyer-Brown House built in 1850, the Chamard-Dunahoe House circa 1788, the Chaplin House built in 1893, and the Prudhomme-Rouquier House that was built in 1782. APHN will host a wine and cheese reception throughout the evening in the Prudhomme-Rouquier House. The tour homes on Friday demonstrate several building styles, including Late Greek Revival, French, and French-Colonial, Victorian, and Federal/Greek influences. The hyphenated names reflect the original and subsequent owners.
The second stage starts at 9:00am on Saturday morning and will feature the Samuel Guy House, Steel Magnolia House, Regan Townhouse, and the Levy-Sutton-Wiggs House. The large two-story Guy House is the featured home on this year’s tour. Built in 1850 in the Greek Revival style by Samuel Ethridge Guy, the Guy House was the centerpiece of a large working plantation near Mansfield. The house remained in the Guy family for 150 years before falling into disrepair. The Guy House was moved from Mansfield to Natchitoches in 2002 when it was renovated and work began on formal gardens behind the structure. The house contains designs unique to the area, including an oversized front entrance, Greek Temple dormers, and 14-foot ceilings. The finished formal gardens display a fountain, walking paths, and a covered sitting area.
The Steel Magnolia House has been maintained to reflect its appearance from the movie, including Shelby’s pink bedroom. The Ragan Townhouse is located on the top floor of the original Natchitoches Opera House built in 1915. That building became the AMUSU Theatre in 1930 and later housed the Don Theater. The building and the adjacent hotel building stood vacant and in disrepair for many years before they were renovated and converted to townhouses.
Melrose, Cherokee, and Oakland plantations, the Marie Therese Coincoin Museum, and the St. Charles Borromeo Chapel (built in 1909) will be open to visitors on Saturday and starting at 9:00am on Sunday. Cherokee Plantation was built in 1839, has six fireplaces, original floor and windows, and 18 hand-hewn cypress columns which support outside galleries on three sides. Cherokee is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Melrose Plantation, home of APHN, has been designated a National Historic Landmark and features several buildings including the “Big House,” the newly-renovated African House, Yucca House, the Bindery, the Writer’s Cabin, Clementine Hunter’s house, the Barn, the Ghana House, and the Ice House. The African House underwent major renovations during the past year with the replacement of the entire roof structure including the beams and the shake roof. The corners of the cantilevered roof had been supported by temporary beams for several years, but the replacement of the roof beams allowed the removal of those support beams, and the structure now appears just as it did when it was built in the early 1800’s. Each of the structures at Melrose has a history as unique as the story of the creation of the plantation in the late 1700’s.
Oakland Plantation, built in 1821, contains several structures including the main house, the Overseer’s House, Slave Cabin, and other outbuildings. Oakland has also been named a National Historic Landmark and a Cane River Creole National Historic Park.
Tickets for the tour are $25.00 for one day, $40.00 for two days, and $50.00 for all three days for adults. Children’s tickets (ages 6 through 12) are $5.00 per tour, and children under six are admitted free. All tickets include free admission to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches. For more information, contact the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission at (318) 259-1714 or Melrose Plantation at (318) 379-0055.