Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Natchitoches Photo Hunt

I know I'm behind in posting, but just realized that I completely forgot to post about my photo hunt day with Debbie a few weeks back. (disclaimer: Photo Hunt means LOTS of pictures!!)

We drove down to Natchitoches to explore a bit and had such a fun day. Our first stops were visits to the area plantation. I went to college in Natchitoches years ago, and while I had some knowledge of the plantations, they were not open for tourists when I was in school, so I had never actually visited.

We stopped at Oakland Plantation first and enjoyed walking around the grounds. 
It once was the home of the Prudhomme family and produced a variety of crops, both for cash and for food.

Some of my favorite buildings were the pigeonniers, which served as home to flocks of pigeons.
There was also a general store on the property and it felt like a step back in time when we walked inside.
Around the front of the main house was what they called a "bottle garden".
I didn't understand the significance of it until I looked down from the porch to see the bottles lining the beds.
Now that's a porch I could get used to---just give me a big glass of lemonade!
Just a couple of miles down the road was Melrose Plantation. I actually did a big research paper about Melrose in college, so I knew a bit about its history, but I learned even more on our little tour. In fact, I later learned, that much of the history at that time was more folklore than anything and much more accurate information is now available. 
Doesn't this building look like it stepped right out of a fairy garden? The ivy on the roof, the crooked shutter. LOVE!
Melrose Plantation is one of the largest plantations in the United States built by and for free blacks.
With over a 200 year history, it changed hands several times through the years, but in the early 20th century, the owner was a lady named Camille Henry, who transformed one of the buildings, the Yucca House, into an Artist Retreat.
Of course, there was no A/C in those days, so the architecture allowed for cross ventilation and a large fan over the cooking area on the back porch.
There was even a beautiful small chapel on the back porch.  Truly a retreat for the mind and soul.
Clementine Hunter worked at Melrose as a cook and housekeeper in the early 1900's and was there when the owner used it as an artist's retreat for aspiring writers and painters. When Clementine expressed a desire to paint, one of the artists, Francoise Mignon, befriended her, gave her some of his leftover paints and she began her work.
She painted on anything--boxes, paper bags, walls--and eventually began selling her works from her front steps. The African House, famed for the paintings that Clementine did on the wall, was under renovation so we were not able to go into it at all. She eventually moved into a small house down the road, but when it was scheduled to be demolished a few years ago, it was lovingly brought to Melrose. By the time I was in college, her works had been discovered by the art world and she was beginning to garner some fame in her later years.  My favorite spot of the whole plantation was her small art table, which still holds some of her paint tubes--so humble, yet full of light and imagination.
When we left Melrose, we drove a few miles to the St. Augustine Catholic Church. We searched high and low for Clementine's grave marker, and although we saw wonderful old markers, we couldn't find hers at first.
Then, by chance as we were leaving, we turned to find her marker on the wall next to her old friend, Francoise Mignon.
After a yummy lunch in town, we decided to visit Fort St. Jean Baptiste, a military outpost in the 1700's. While not the original structure, it has been recreated do reflect the details that were in the original fort.
Being a weekday, there were not many people there, so we wandered on our own mostly.

Just before we left, we ran into one of the docents who was anxious to give us a demonstration of how a flintlock powder musket worked. Neither of us are gun fans particularly, but we obliged and let him show us how it worked.
It was such a fun day and reminded me of all the possibilities to explore that are within an hour or two of my own little house! Thank you, Debbie!  I can't wait for our next adventure!!

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