German Coast Dwellings

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There was a broad spectrum of architectural styles ranging from the crude and rustic cabins of early settlers, farmers and slaves, to business people and the mansions of wealthy planters. Some plantation owners held large tracts of land but lived in simple houses. Some built with whatever could be scraped together. Others chose to build on a grand scale. The French Colonial cottage and West Indies influence remained the favorite of the Creoles.

“Driftwood is running freely in the Mississippi River owing to the recent rise. Now is the time to secure your firewood.”
—St. Charles Herald, January 1884

Most Louisiana towns still depended on ice supplies from New Orleans during the 1880s. The ice was placed in barrels packed with sawdust. By the 1890s, ice factories began appearing.

Creole Houses
Creole houses once spanned the River Roads on the east and west banks of St. Charles Parish. Local artist Janis Blair illustrates the graceful architecture of that period.
The Luke Troxler House
The Luke Troxler family house in Hahnville, circa 1870, is one of the very few French Colonial cottages still in existence in the parish. It has bousillage in the walls, square nails, a hip-gabled roof with tin covering, clapboarding on the exterior walls, a triple front door with a central hall, transoms and sidelights, decorative porch posts, a rear screened-in porch, and French doors with shutters on several of the front doors. The interior chimney and real lean-to addition have been removed.
Home of Dr. Victor Lehman
Pictured is the home of Dr. Victor Lehman, who served as coroner from 1890 to 1920, one of the longest tenures in parish history. The French and Spanish Creole houses changed very little from the colonial period. The “Acadian Cottage,” as popularly known, had a steep roof which enclosed a front gallery (porch) and attic bedrooms. The stairway leading to the upstairs bedrooms was on the outside at one end of the gallery. Many of the yards were enclosed by picket fences. (Photo courtesy of the St. Charles Herald)
Originally built as slave cabins, these dwellings became housing for freed slaves, Italians, and other immigrants after the Civil War.
Alice Plantation
Alice Plantation in Ama was purchased in 1893 by Thomas J. “Colonel Mulberry” Sellers and named for his daughter, Alice Augusta Sellers. Alice Plantation had a massive front gallery, sixty feet in length with roll-down canvas shades to create an additional room in inclement weather. With forethought, and past experiences with plantation disasters, Sellers and his sons built Sellers Canal as a shortcut through the marsh to Grand Isle. The canal was particularly useful when the Hymelia Crevasse struck in 1912. Sellers and his family rode to safety via the canal. Alice Plantation was relocated once to avoid the encroaching river, but in 1938 a mysterious fire razed the old place. St. Charles Airport now occupies the Alice Plantation site. Many family members served in office in such positions as superintendent of public schools, assessor, and sheriff. The “Colonel” died at Alice Plantation in 1915 and is buried in the Red Church Cemetery in Destrehan. (Photo courtesy of the St. Charles Herald)
“Rosedon” (the Dorvin House), circa 1820s, is a beautiful Creole house, rescued, restored and named “Rosedon” by Don and Darlene (nee Mollere) Ellis and the Mollere family. The restoration began in 1979. The house is constructed of cypress with briquette entre poteaux (brick between posts). Located in Taft, the one-and one-half story residence built by Antoine Dorvin exemplifies the late transition to Anglo-American architecture on the German Coast. It retains many Creole elements while including more of an English floor plan (wide central hallway), Greek revival motifs, and a symmetrical facade. This house is also one of only three remaining Creole structures which exemplify the emerging American influence during the fast evolving 1840s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo courtesy of Don and Darlene Ellis)

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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