Cane River Creole National Historical Park
The Cane River region is home to a unique culture; the Creoles. The nearly
300 year relationship between the Cane River Creoles and their homeland was
shaped by the river. This relationship was tested by flood, drought, war,
and numerous other obstacles. Luckily, their resilience and
resourcefulness has allowed the Creole culture to endure and thrive.
Historic District - National Historic Landmark
In 1690, French explorer Henri de Tonti arrived in the Indian village of
Natchitoches. In 1714, three years before New Orleans was founded, another
Frenchman, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, ordered the first substantial
dwellings to be built in Natchitoches. This established the first
permanent settlement in what became the vast Louisiana Purchase Territory.
As the settlement grew, active trade began with the Spanish. When
Natchitoches became an outpost for the Spanish government in 1764, there
was little concern for the colony's French Creoles. They had been trading
with the Spanish since the founding of the city. This became part of the
United States in 1803, and by this time, Creole planters were building
more pretentious structures using traditional "bousillage" construction (a
building technique that used wood frame, e.g., upright and angular posts,
in filled with Spanish moss and mud). The city of Natchitoches continued
as an important trading and navigation center on the Red River. In 1825
the Red River began changing course and continued to do so until 1849 when
the old river channel was abandoned and Cane River Lake was formed.
Steamboat traffic to the city was possible only during periods of high
The plan for the city was developed from property lines radiating from the
river. In the late 1700s, these property lines became streets, and later
were intersected by other streets forming rectangular blocks. The area
retains the atmosphere of a rural town with well-kept lawns and homes.
Pride of ownership in this area is evident, and in recent years
restoration work has been undertaken by private individuals. The business
and residential areas are clearly defined due to early zoning
restrictions. Front Street, which stretches the length of the business
district, is brick paved and overlooks Cane River
Lake. The bank is terraced down to the river and landscaped with crepe
myrtles and oaks. Most of the opposite bank, also landscaped, belongs to
the city. The area in the old town section is low density. Old trees dot
the landscape in the business district. Buildings that have gone up in
recent years have been designed to be compatible with the surroundings.
Only those streets that run east and west are straight. Other streets are
narrow and crooked, giving the appearance of quaintness since most of the
dwellings were built at angles to the street. The historic district has a
mixture of architecture from the
18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. About 60 buildings and places of
interest or historic note are located within the district.
Kate Chopin House - National Historic Landmark
This building was originally constructed in the early
1800s. Home of Alexis Cloutier, for whom Cloutierville was named, and
later Kate Chopin, American author of Creole stories, it is an example of
a raised Louisiana cottage illustrating French construction methods. The
structure represents a typical house used in small rural communities by
Creoles. The complex includes a restored blacksmith shop, a building that
served as a doctor's office, and other relics of past life in the Cane
Melrose Plantation - National Historic Landmark
Established in 1796 by a former slave who became a
wealthy businesswoman, the plantation was developed by Creoles of color
over several generations. A number of famous artists, including Clementine
Hunter, and writers, including Francois Mignon, spent time at the
Today the buildings of Melrose Plantation include the big house, the
African house behind it, the yucca house, the Ghana house, the writers'
cabin, the weaving house, the bindery, and the barn. The African house, an
unusual structure with an umbrella-like roof, and Ghana house contain
features that are similar to structures in the Caribbean and Africa.
Except for the writers' cabin, the weaving house, and the bindery, all the
buildings are on their original sites. The three exceptions were moved to
Melrose by Mrs. Cammie Garrett Henry, the last private owner. They are old
buildings from the vicinity but not original to this plantation.
Los Adaes State Commemorative Areat - National
The Spanish founded this presidio in 1721 to check
French expansion into east Texas. It played a part in maintaining the
international balance of power between Spain and France. This presidio
served as an administrative capitol for the province of Texas from 1751 to
1770 before being abandoned in 1773. Los Adaes, or Nuestra Senora del
Pilar de los Adaes, is one of the few Spanish presidios in the borderlands
that has not been affected by modern agricultural practices or urban
expansion. The site of the main presidio and associated buildings is owned
by the state; the mission site is located on
private land and is currently used as pastureland. The presidio remains
are located on a low ridge. The area of the site is an open field
surrounded by pine forest. It has never been cultivated, and archeological
remains are abundant and in place. Los Adaes provides opportunities to
study, research, and interpret life at a Spanish colonial frontier
settlement, including European-Indian interdependency.
Fort Jesup State Commemorative Areat - National Historic Landmark
Fort Jesup was the most southwesterly military outpost
in the United States from its establishment in 1822 until the Mexican War.
In March 1845, Texas was offered admission to the Union and Gen. Zachary
Taylor's "Army of Observation," stationed at Fort Jesup, was ordered to
hold its troops ready to march into Texas. After Texas joined the Union,
Taylor was ordered to move into the new state.
After the sale of the lots and buildings of Fort Jesup at the auctions of
1850, 1875, 1880, and 1885, the great stone and log garrison structures
were torn down, removed, or gradually deteriorated. By 1929 only one
building remained, the kitchen. The roof and floor were nearly all gone,
and the crumbling foundation threatened the collapse of the entire
Local interest in the history of Fort Jesup provided funds for the
restoration of this building. In replacing the roof, handriven cypress
boards were used and the original handwrought hinges and nails reused. The
old rock chimney was rebuilt, decaying members were replaced with hewn
logs, and sills were replaced where needed. A new floor of rough oak
boards was laid and the stone foundation was also replaced. The extent of
the park around this structure was 3 acres.
In 1957, Fort Jesup State Monument was established, consisting of 20.5
acres. The original restored building was refurnished with period
reproductions and authentic pots, pans, and utensils. One of the officers'
quarters has been reconstructed for use as a visitor center and park
administrative office, with exhibits designed to tell the story of the
fort. The area has also undergone extensive landscaping.
The plantation house of Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud'homme
was most likely constructed by slaves beginning in 1821. It has been
occupied by seven generations of the Prud'homme family. Many of the
original outbuildings for this plantation are intact. Many of the
surviving structures including the French colonial main house are examples
of bousillage construction. Also important is the landscape, which
contains an 1835 bottle garden, a formal entranceway, and intact
The plantation setting is open and flat, and the only change in elevation
occurs at the riverbanks, where there is a drop of a few feet. The only
intrusion in the area is a small metal truss bridge; however, this is not
a major feature in the landscape.
The main house is set at the head of a short alley of live oaks behind a
small formal garden. The parterres are outlined in various kinds of
bottles - crock bottles from Scotland, square bitters bottles, round
bottom beer bottles from Ireland, torpedo-shaped bottles from England, and
wine bottles from France. The main house is a large hip roof, raised
cottage, with surrounding galleries and 28 chamfered posts. The three
dormers on the front are original. Most rooms have double French doors.
The interior walls are paneled with random-width boards. Only one of the
original mantels remains - a comparatively plain Greek Revival wooden
mantel in one of the bedrooms. The finer marble mantels cracked and were
replaced with plain wooden mantels in 1915. Most of the transom doors and
The plantation includes several outbuildings. The old store - a frame,
gable-fronted building - dates from the Civil War era. Behind the store is
the carriage house, an old but nondescript frame building, which was
converted into a machine shop in 1960. There are two frame hip roof
pigeonniers at opposite ends of the access lane and a small log
carpenter's shop with half dovetail
joints at the corners. Behind the carpenter's shop is an old frame barn
that was once a smokehouse; the smoked and charred beams remain. The
overseer's house is a raised cottage that has been re-sided. The largest
residence other than the plantation house is the doctor's house, a
five-bay frame cottage with a pitched roof. Though much reworked, it still
contributes to the overall appearance of the plantation.