Prolific Louisiana architect A. Hays Town first brought the beauty of traditional Louisiana building to the attention of people far and wide of bayous and Acadian culture, and my own love of those traditional building styles began with his ‘replicated’ designs. Perhaps becoming so enamored of the famous architect’s designs blinds us to the fact that such building was going on long before Mr Town made it de rigueur. It was his eye that fully discerned the beauty of Louisiana’s old plantation houses, left in many cases to neglect and deterioration. His architectural masterpieces took old ideas and materials into a modern setting away from the bayous and sugarcane fields and made them sing as beautifully on city streets. But as much as I admire the work of Mr Town, the focus here is on a house standing long before his birth.
The March/April issue of the magazine Louisiana Life includes a story on one of the old Louisiana houses, this one—though moved eleven miles from its original site—is in a rural setting of seventy acres located along a channel of water in southern Louisiana. Owners of the house like to call this waterway a bayou, but it is more accurately a channel or chenal, remnant of a Mississippi River channel that once flowed through the area. But it’s best not to dicker over words, since the setting of Maison Chenal, whether bayou or channel is idyllic.
A cherished part of Louisiana’s architectural history, Maison Chenal is a raised eighteenth century Creole plantation home located along the Chenal waterway in Point Coupee Parish. The house was bought and moved eleven miles to its present site in 1973 and restored to museum perfection by its owners, Pat and Jack Holden. Unfortunately, complete documentation of the early history of the house does not exist, but evidence points to construction in the 1790s. The last documented owner was planter-merchant Julien Poydras in 1808, a gentleman well-known in New Orleans history.
The front garden of the house is surrounded by a pieu (post or pointed stake) fence made from split cypress boards.
The downstairs porch on the front of the house has a floor of old bricks common to these old homes and a frequent characteristic of Hays Town designs.
A bedroom opens onto the front gallery overlooking the garden.
Those wishing to read the complete article and view other photographs, click here.