61st Annual Fall Tour of Homes 2015

NATCHITOCHES – For the second year in a row, the Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes in Natchitoches will celebrate the old and the new at the same time. Last year, for the first time, the tour featured a modern townhouse that was constructed in a 1900’s-era building. This year, the tour will include a different townhouse in that same building demonstrating a modern home in a century-old setting. 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. The Regan Townhouse will be among the bakers dozen homes presented during the weekend of October 9-11 when the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) hosts its 61st annual Fall Pilgrimage Tour of Homes, and 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. Tickets for the tour are $25 for one day, $40 for two days, and $50 for all three days for adults. Children’s tickets (aged 6-12) are $5 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. The three-stage tour begins on Friday at 7:00 p.m. 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. Those four homes 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 of the tour starts at 9:00 on Saturday morning and will feature the Regan Townhouse, Samuel Guy House, Steel Magnolia House, and the Levy-Sutton-Wiggs House. The Ragan Townhouse is one of several townhomes that were built in the renovated theater building and the adjacent hotel building. The Regan house, like the others combines the old and the new with a look into the original design structure and the renovation effort. The original Natchitoches Opera House was built in 1915 and became the AMUSU Theatre in 1930 and later 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. The featured home on the tour, the Guy House, was built in 1850 in the Greek Revival style by Samuel Ethridge Guy and was the centerpiece of a large working plantation near Mansfield, La. The house remained in the Guy family for 150 years before falling into disrepair and being sold. The Guy House was moved to Natchitoches in 2002 when renovations began and formal gardens behind the structure were started. The house contains designs unique to the area, including an oversized front entrance, Greek Temple dormers, and 14-foot ceilings. The finished formal gardens include a fountain, walkways, and a covered sitting area. The Steel Magnolia House is one of the first houses seen in the movie and was the centerpiece for many of the scenes in the movie including Tom Skerritt shooting at blackbirds, the presentation of the “bleeding” armadillo groom’s cake at the wedding reception, and the Christmas party with a student choir borrowed from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. The house has been maintained to reflect its appearance from the movie, including Shelby’s pink bedroom. The Levy-Sutton-Wiggs House was built in 1927 and was one of the first homes built across the Cane River from downtown Natchitoches. The home was also one of the first to feature central heat which was supplied by a gassed fire unit located in a brick room on the lower level. 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 9:00 a.m. 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. The 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. The plantation served as an artist’s and writer’s retreat at the beginning of the 20th century, and the presence of artists provided the opportunity for a cook at the plantation to begin her painting career. With discarded paints and brushes, Clementine Hunter began painting primitive works depicting life on the Cane River in Natchitoches Parish. She became an internationally-recognized primitive artist, and a series of unique murals painted by her were displayed in the African House. Those murals were restored during the past year and are currently on display in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. Replicas of the murals have been installed at Melrose until the originals are returned next year. 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. For more information contact the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission at (318) 259-1714 or Melrose Plantation at (318) 379-0055.