The West Feliciana Historical Society is pleased to share the details of the 2020 Audubon Pilgrimage. You won’t want to miss the 49th annual event which will feature some exciting changes including two houses to tour during the Friday Night festivities and a gospel brunch on Sunday. Local writer and historian, Anne Butler, provided the following peek at the history of all the houses on tour.
SPRING GROVE, built in 1895 on lands carved from Afton Villa Plantation for Barrow descendent Wade Hampton Richardson IV, was “an ideal country home supplied with modern conveniences to make rural life agreeable.” When his only daughter married at 18, the house was expanded so that she could raise her family there, and
in later years it has expanded even more…a bedroom here, a bigger kitchen there…to warmly welcome subsequent generations, current owners Anne and George Kurz, her parents Dr. Tommy and Laura Noland Thompson, plus grown children and grandchildren.
LEMON-ARGUE HOUSE is a fine example of vernacular architecture, a fascinating yeoman farmer’s cottage illustrative of 18th-century timbering techniques with its hand-hewn logs of blue poplar. Built by Irish immigrant William Lemon around 1801 on a Spanish landgrant, it has recently been donated by his descendants to LSU and the Rural Life Museum for use as a classroom, research lab and historic house museum providing hands-on experience for students in many different fields Minimally furnished for pilgrimage tours, this is a preservation work in progress.
PROSPECT, built in 1809, during Audubon’s tenure was occupied by Dr. Isaac Smith, early physician, LA State Senate president and great advocate of higher education. Another public service-minded figure, Dr. O.D. Brooks, purchased Prospect in 1879. As a 16-year-old boy he saw Civil War action alongside his father, owned the Royal Hotel, had a pharmacy, and served on the School Board for three decades, facilitating establishment of the parish’s first public school. The Robert Wilsons raised 3 sons in the house, one of whom lives there now with his family, and made only minimal changes for comfortable living. Beside the house is a rare classical wellhouse.
BAIER HOUSE was a simple four-room cottage considerably embellished by former mayor and master carpenter George Baier when he finally moved from flood-prone Bayou Sara up the hill to the safety of St. Francisville’s high-and-dry location. He had nearly drowned in Bayou Sara during the flood of 1920/21, when the Weydert brothers saved him as he held onto ropes trying to keep his house from being washed away. Today owned by Emily Honeycutt, its steep backyard gives testament to St. Francisville’s description as the little town two miles long and only two yards wide.
Friday night festivities include tours of two special houses that you won’t want to miss.
SAINTE REINE, its name a reminder of the area’s first tiny fort dating from the 1720s, was built in 1894 by Max Mann, Bayou Sara saloonkeeper and merchant who had the good sense to move up on the St. Francisville bluff high above the river floodwaters that plagued the immigrant shopkeepers in the little port city below. The lot was purchased from Dr. O.D. Brooks, Civil War veteran and passionate educator, who lived next door; he was the great-great-grandfather of present owner Paul Martin, who with his wife Debbie has filled the raised cottage with family heirlooms.
LEAKE HOUSE is a wonderful old Acadian-Creole house disassembled and moved from the Bayou Lafourche area that probably dates from the 1840s, judging from the roman numerals carved into the pegged hand-hewn beams of red cypress, heavy horsehair/mud bousillage and fine craftsmanship. It was salvaged and moved by Bobee Leake to a lot consisting mostly of a foot or two of level ground beside the street and then a precipitous drop 40 or 50 feet to the creek below. Industrial-style pilings and back-filled cement walls now support a house of three stories to the rear, looking as if it has been rooted in this spot forever.