Announcing Amy Temple Louviere - 2019 Audubon Pilgrimage Chair

 Amy Temple Louviere, chairman of the 2019 Audubon Pilgrimage, is a native of St. Francisville and has served in numerous Pilgrimage volunteer positions, including as a junior hostess at Propinquity in the first Pilgrimage in 1972.  Since then Amy has been a docent, a home coordinator, co-chairman of the Light up the Night Soiree and flower arranger for numerous Pilgrimage tour homes.  She actively serves in the community as a board member of the Julius Freyhan Foundation, the St. Francisville United Methodist Church Board of Trustees and the Feliciana Country Gardeners. She is a past president of the Women’s Service League and the West Feliciana Tourist Commission, past chairman of the Christmas in the Country parade, past secretary of the Friends of the Library and chairman of their annual Tour of Homes. Amy follows in the footsteps of her mother, Dot Temple, who served as Pilgrimage chairman in 1987, and her grandmother, Catherine Reames, who was a coordinator of the kitchen at the Rural Homestead for many years.  She has been married for 28 years to Lambert Louviere, and they have two children, Jay and Mary Quin.  Both Jay and Mary Quin have participated in Pilgrimage volunteer activities, including acting in the Audubon play, dancing with Sweet Maids and Maypole dancers and working at the Rural Homestead.  Amy graduated from West Feliciana High School and LSU and has been employed at the Louisiana State Archives since 1991, currently serving as their exhibits coordinator. ​

Rural Homestead Fundraiser October 14, 2018 

 In 1976, the Rural Homestead was created with funds from the annual pilgrimage, through a strong desire of the Society to share the living history of the yeoman farmers of the Felicianas. Now, 42 years later, the Historical Society has reaffirmed its commitment to the homestead and would like to insure financial sustainability of this special living history center.An assessment of all the homestead structures by preservation specialist Jean N. Becnel, Sr. was recently completed.  This assessment identified much needed repairs that must be undertaken to sustain the viability of the site, such as replacement of roofs, restoration of porches and steps, and a few foundation issues.  Maintaining the old buildings at the site, which include the Blacksmith Shop, Quilters Cottage, Kitchen and Commissary, is a worthy financial challenge.  As such, the Society will hold a fundraiser brunch, RUSTIC TABLE, Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 12:30pm at Greenwood Plantation, catered by Heirloom Cuisine.  We hope you will join us for this event. It is our hope that the fundraiser will allow us to complete repairs and sustain operation of the site for years to come, thus honoring the Homestead’s founders and many volunteers.

Old Benevolent Society Makes Endangered Places List

Representatives from the West Feliciana Historical Society have begun working with the Order of the Eastern Star group to initiate efforts to preserve and restore the Old Benevolent Society building located at 11738 Ferdinand Street in St. Francisville’s Historic District. This process began in earnest with the recent addition of the building to the Louisiana Most Endangered Places List.The building played a significant role in the local African American history. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Benevolent Societies filled an urgent need for medical care and burials of freed slaves that had once been filled by the masters of the plantations.  Over time, the societies provided union and fellowship amongst the black community.  During the late 19th and 20th centuries, nearly every church had a benevolent society that filled dire and pressing needs such as sitting with the sick, feeding the weak, funding medical care, and covering the cost of a decent burial.  An abridged version of the press release issued by the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation (LTHP) regarding the 2018 additions to the LA Endangered Places List follows.  To learn more about this program and view all listings, visit https://www.lthp.org/properties/most-endangered/.  LA TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION ANNOUNCES 2018 ADDITIONS TO LOUISIANA’S MOST ENDANGERED PLACES LIST - Monday, August 27, 2018 – 10 a.m. Baton Rouge, LA - Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation (LTHP) announced additions to Louisiana’s Most Endangered Places List at a press conference Monday, in the lobby of the Old State Capitol.  Representatives from many of the 15 sites added to the list were present to discuss the importance of their locations and circumstances threatening them.  Since 1999, the Louisiana Trust has highlighted endangered historic sites and advocated for their preservation and protection.  Listing these resources acknowledges their importance to Louisiana’s history and culture and draws attention to the forces affecting these and similar historic sites statewide.  The list is generated from nominations made by the public and aims to attract creative approaches and resources to see the sites saved and rehabilitated.Challenges faced by properties on this year’s list range from demolition by neglect and lack of funding for maintenance to pressures from unsympathetic development and rising sea level.  It sheds light on the need for greater resources as well as the need to incorporate history and historic preservation into redevelopment plans around the state. “Historic buildings and sites are the fingerprints of our communities and it takes creative measures to preserve and protect them for future generations,” says Brian Davis, Executive Director of the Louisiana Trust.  “Strategic partnerships, tax credits and programs like revolving funds can save buildings many people may consider too far gone.”Historic preservation is a catalytic tool for revitalization and economic development, as shown by the 2017 study by Place Economics titled “The Historic Tax Credit: Building the Future in Louisiana”.  The report found that between 2007-2016, nearly $2.7 billion was invested in Louisiana’s historic buildings as a direct result of state and federal rehabilitation tax credits.  These projects created an average of 1,725 direct jobs and an additional 1, 429 indirect and induced jobs, such as tourism.  The credits are a cash-positive investment in the state, with every $1 that the State of Louisiana provides in commercial historic tax credits spurs $8.76 in additional economic activity.  Louisiana is fifth in the nation in the value of historic tax credits awarded each year and first in the nation in number of annual historic tax credit projects.  This means that more small buildings are being redeveloped and returned to productive uses in communitiesSelections to the Louisiana’s Most Endangered Historic Places List are based on their historic significance; the critical nature of their threat; and the likelihood to bring about a positive resolution to their situation or to those of similar sites.  Nominations are collected and reviewed in the first quarter of each year.  More information about the program, including nomination form and a complete list of sites may be found at LTHP.org. Old Benevolent Society Building (1883) – St. Francisville, West Feliciana ParishBenevolent societies played an important role in black communities following the Civil War.  Originally formed to cover the expenses of medical care and burial, they also provided union and fellowship, especially to the sick and weak.  Use of the building ceased in December 2016, due to needed repairs to the foundation and exterior. The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation was founded in 1979 and advocates, promotes and preserves historic places representing our diverse culture in all 64 parishes.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.  In addition to the Louisiana’s Most Endangered Places List, the organization hosts the annual statewide preservation conference, tours of historic communities and a revolving fund program to save endangered historic structures.  If you know of historic properties which may benefit from the Louisiana Trust’s work or would like more information, visit LTHP.org or follow on Facebook (@LTHPreservation) and Instagram (@LouisianaTrust). Photos may be found at:   https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8foyrpl9h9ngiz9/AABg_YO6TN_U-xOf8RH41UiPa?dl=0 Photo credit:  LTHP.org

Black History Month 2018

The Historical Society is pleased to present a special exhibit for Black History Month: Louisiana Blues - A Century of African American Influence.  The exhibit features the fascinating stories of sixteen Louisiana bluesmen, several of whom with ties to the Felicianas.  West Feliciana Parish is proud to be home to Lil Jimmy Reed.  Born Leon Atkins and raised in a small shack in Hardwood, Lil Jimmy earned his moniker after filling in for bluesman, Jimmy Reed.  And so began his long career as an authentic Louisiana bluesman.  His photograph was the perfect inspiration for our publicity flier - you can almost hear his music come off the page. Blues music told the rural story of oppression, hard work, broken hearts, misfortune, and struggle. Early blues musicians usually played guitar and harmonica. Some used percussion. The important thing was that the song told the story. Most songs were passed along orally; few were written down or recorded until the early 1900s. Songs that resembled the blues music we know today were played in the late 19th and early 20th century and some called them “ditties.”  The exhibit explores the impact Louisiana bluesman had on the local, national and international music scene.   In many cases, their music was far more appreciated in other countries than in the America.  Nonetheless, the influence their music had on other genres was, and continues to be far reaching.  Recording artists from Eric Clapton to Kurt Cobain often touted the inspiration of these gritty and soulful musicians on their own music.   The exhibit, which was carefully researched and curated by Cliff Deal, opens on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 6:30pm.  

47th Annual Audubon Pilgrimage  By Anne Butler 

The forty-seventh annual Audubon Pilgrimage March 16, 17 and 18, 2018, celebrates a southern spring in St. Francisville, the glorious garden spot of Louisiana’s English Plantation Country. For nearly half a century the sponsoring West Feliciana Historical Society has thrown open the doors of significant historic structures to commemorate artist-naturalist John James Audubon’s stay as he painted a number of his famous bird studies and tutored the daughter of Oakley Plantation’s Pirrie family, beautiful young Eliza. A year’s worth of planning and preparation precedes each pilgrimage, and with 47 years of experience under their belt, society members put on one of the South’s most professional and enjoyable pilgrimage presentations. This year’s breath of fresh air comes from never-before-shown properties and enthusiastic new owners of old houses.One of this year’s featured country plantations is a remarkable house called Woodland, a story of unexpected twists and turns, intergenerational connections and a fascinating trip all the way across the Mighty Mississippi to the ancestral lands of the present owner in West Feliciana, a journey across hundreds of miles and two centuries. A grand Greek Revival house, Woodland was built in the mid-1800s on a sugar plantation near the steamboat town of Washington, but had been abandoned for years and was facing demolition when Cammie and David Norwood saved it. It took a year to prepare the old structure to be hauled circuitously along 375 miles of back roads and another several years to put it back together. Now the Woodland house has been returned to its original glory, filled with fine family furnishings and anchored to its pastoral site by well-planned landscaping, looking as if it has been there forever.Another country plantation home with a remarkable history is glorious Greek Revival Greenwood, which has enjoyed more than its fair share of miraculous resurrections. Its story began in 1798, when widowed Olivia Ruffin Barrow journeyed by covered wagon from North Carolina to Spanish Feliciana. One of her grandsons would elope with vivacious young Eliza Pirrie of Oakley Plantation, Audubon’s pupil. In 1830 Olivia’s son William Ruffin Barrow engaged prominent architect James Coulter to build a fine home on family property that would grow to 12,000 acres for the cultivation of cotton and sugarcane.Nearly 100 feet square, the Greenwood house was completely surrounded by 28 huge Doric columns of brick. Inside, a 70-foot central hallway was flanked by large rooms with 14-foot ceilings; a third-floor attic was topped by a rooftop belvedere from which Barrow could survey his fields and look out as far as the Mississippi River several miles away.The Civil War brought tragedy, but in 1915 Greenwood Plantation was purchased by Frank and Naomi Fisher Percy, who restored the house and opened it to the public. Featured in magazines, visited by adoring tourists and beloved by Hollywood, it was called by  National Geographic the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in the South. And then on the night of August 1, 1960, tragedy struck again. Lightning started a fire; within three hours, there was nothing left but 28 Doric columns and some free-standing chimneys. In 1968 these tragic ruins touched the hearts of Walton Barnes and his son Richard, who purchased the house site and 278 acres and began the enormous effort of rebuilding as close to the original as possible. In July 2016, along came new owners Julie and Hal Pilcher, recently retired empty-nesters with the energy and enthusiasm to undertake  significant improvements, furnishing the home with an interesting mixture of Barrow, Percy, Barnes and Hollywood pieces to ready it for its first pilgrimage appearance.An earlier country home also featured for the first time on the Audubon Pilgrimage this year is The Cedars, its design and first cash crop—tobacco—bespeaking the Virginia background of original owner Simon Hearty, for whom the property was surveyed beginning in 1790. The house was built between 1793 and 1795, and it was said that the artist John James Audubon sketched the birdlife on Cedars Lane and visited with the family there. After Thomas Butler purchased the property from his mother-in-law in 1879, his two daughters, Mamie and Sarah, who stayed in New Orleans after graduating from Newcomb, returned as spinsters to spend weekends in a house enlarged with two-story octagonal additions; subsequent owners, the Fred Kings, raised a family in a home they too improved.Today The Cedars is the home of a vibrant young family, the Andrew Grezaffis, who have filled it beautifully with an eclectic mixture of furnishings imparting the feel of having been lived in by generations of the same family, as all old homes should feel, although the Grezaffis and their five small children have been in residence only a few years.In historic downtown St. Francisville are a couple of featured cottages across from the parish courthouse. Miss Lise’s Cottage was originally built in Bayou Sara, the flood-prone port city on the banks of the Mississippi River. In the late 1800s it was hauled up the hill into St. Francisville, safe from the floodwaters, its two rooms home for the first “telephone girl” whose early switchboard was on the second floor of the nearby bank.Until recently a conveniently located attorney’s office, now it puts the WOW factor in this year’s pilgrimage and shows how adaptable these old structures can be in the right hands. The exterior facade retains the traditional Creole cottage character. but oh, that unexpected interior-- all black and white and simply stunning, showing what happens when you turn loose a gifted career architect and a frustrated designer of equal talent on a charming little historic cottage, where the juxtaposition of antique and contemporary is striking and a carefully curated collection of modern art strikes a happy balance with treasured family antiques.Some of the best-loved pieces descend from Jim Dart’s grandfather, an engineer and attorney whose law office next door to Miss Lise’s Cottage is now home to Kora, Grezaffi and Levasseur Capital Management (yes, the same Grezaffi whose home The Cedars is another pilgrimage feature). Built in 1842, it has housed such notable barristers as Uriah B. Phillips who was blown up in a mid-1800s steamboat explosion, and Louisiana’s last antebellum governor Robert C. Wickliffe.Besides these featured historic structures, pilgrimage visitors are welcomed at Afton Villa Gardens, Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, three 19th-century churches in town and beautiful St. Mary’s in the country, as well as the Rural Homestead with lively demonstrations of the rustic skills of daily pioneer life. Audubon Market Hall hosts an impressive exhibit of more than sixty of Audubon’s Birds of America done in the Felicianas, Audubon State Historic Site features morning explorations of nature and birding programs, and this year the hills are alive with the sound of music, with varied special performances scheduled for each featured home and throughout historic downtown St. Francisville as a tribute to the late father of this year’s chairman. Daytime features are open 9:30 to 5, Sunday 11 to 4 for tour homes; Friday evening activities are scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday soiree begins at 7 p.m.The Historic District around Royal Street is filled during the day with the happy sounds of costumed children singing and dancing the Maypole; in the evening as candles flicker and fireflies flit among the ancient moss-draped live oaks, there is no place more inviting for a leisurely stroll. Friday evening features old-time Hymn Singing at the United Methodist Church, Graveyard Tours at Grace Episcopal cemetery (last tour begins at 8:15 p.m.), and a wine and cheese reception at Bishop Jackson Hall (7 to 9 p.m.) featuring Vintage Dancers and young ladies modeling the pilgrimage’s exquisitely detailed 1820’s evening costumes, nationally recognized for their authenticity. Light UpThe Night, the Saturday evening soiree, features live music and dancing, dinner and drinks beginning at 7 p.m.For tickets and tour information, contact West Feliciana Historical Society, Box 338, St. Francisville, LA 70775; phone 225-635-6330 or 225-635-4224; online , email wfhistsociety@gmail.com. A package including daytime tours and all evening entertainment Friday and Saturday is available. Tickets can also be purchased at the Historical Society Museum on Ferdinand Street. ​

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