Neighborhood Tour
- Page 6
Historic sights north of Baton Rouge
BY COLETTE DEAN

Special to The Advocate

As you make your way north of Baton Rouge driving through green rolling hills, you head into the historic neighborhoods of Baton Rouge Metropolitan Areas 1, 2 and 10. You can’t escape the historic landmark signs dotting front yards and intersections in Clinton, Jackson and St. Francisville, which honor the grand past that formed these small towns. Clinton is known for its historic architecture, including Lawyer’s Row, the East Feliciana Parish Courthouse and charming Victorian homes.

Historic landmarks in Jackson cover two-thirds of the town and feature more than 120 structures such as banks, shops, homes, churches and warehouses. St. Francisville’s historic district includes 140 structures encompassing churches, antebellum homes, townhomes, cemeteries and dozens of antique and gift shops.

In the spring of each year, tourists flock to see the inside of some of these homes and businesses during the Jackson Assembly Antiques and Art Show. St. Francisville opens the doors of significant historic structures to commemorate artist-naturalist John James Audubon’s stay in the area during the annual West Feliciana Historical Society Audubon Pilgrimage, now in its 46th year. History buffs don’t have to wait for these special events, however. Here are some historic highlights that can be explored year-round.

EAST FELICIANA PARISH COURTHOUSE

12305 St. Helena St., Clinton

East Feliciana Parish has flown under the flags of Spain, France, England and the Republic of West Florida. The East Feliciana Parish Courthouse is a stunning Greek revival structure and is one of the oldest courthouses in the nation that is still used today. Clinton was founded in 1824 as the parish seat of justice and became the legal center of the area when the Clinton and Port Hudson Railroad were established in the mid 1830s. The town found prosperity as the cotton trading point for a large area. The Greek revival structure has 28 columns and a domed octagonal cupola atop a hipped roof serving as the town’s centerpiece.

Around the back of the courthouse, you’ll see a row of Greek Revival cottages that date from 1840 to 1860, known as Lawyer’s Row, designated a National Historic Landmark.

REPUBLIC OF WEST FLORIDA MUSEUM

3406 College St., Jackson

(225) 634-7444; (225) 634-7379

Exhibits here include vintage cars, horse-drawn carriages, a restored cotton gin from the 1800s, and a working theater pipe organ from the 1920s.

CENTENARY STATE HISTORIC SITE

3522 College St., Jackson

(225) 634-7925; (888) 677-2364

The original campus of Centenary College of Louisiana, which is now located in Shreveport. Tours include the 1800s home of a former professor with exhibits on pre-Civil War education in Louisiana and interpretations of early college life during this time. The school was used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and programs focus on the methods and instruments used by the Civil-War-era doctors.

PORT HUDSON STATE AND COMMEMORATIVE AREA

Located on U.S. 61 between St. Francisville and Baton Rouge, the Civil War battlefield here was the site of the longest siege in U.S. military history and was the first time AfricanAmerican soldiers served in battle fighting for the Federal Army. The museum offers displays and interpretative rangers. The site is also home to six miles of hiking trails, a half mile of trenches, and is accessible by concrete and elevated wooden boardwalks.

WEST FELICIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM

11757 Ferdinand St., St. Francisville

(225) 635-6330

This museum is dedicated to the history, people and architecture of West Feliciana Parish, located in a former hardware store, circa 1896, on the main street in town. The museum features dioramas, displays of vintage clothing, documents, maps and other items of interest. The museum also serves as a tourist information center and a gift shop.

OLD CENTENARY INN

1740 Charter St., Jackson

(225) 634-5050

A bed-and-breakfast hotel that was constructed in 1935 using salvaged bricks, columns, windows, and doors from the old East Dormitory Building of Centenary College.

GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

11621 Ferdinand St., St. Francisville

The English gothic-style structure is surrounded by a canopy of moss-draped live oak trees; a granite slab in the churchyard cemetery tells a poignant Civil War story. Fighting came to a halt for the funeral of Union naval officer John F. Hart during the Civil War. Hart had asked for a Masonic burial and his fellow Confederate Masons honored the deathbed request.

AUDUBON STATE HISTORIC SITE

11788 La. 965, St. Francisville

(225) 635-3739; (888) 677-2838

Oakley Plantation Home at Audubon State Historic Site is a West-Indies-style home. John James Audubon lived here for several months in 1821 while teaching the owner’s daughter. While at Oakley, he painted part of his “Birds of America” series. A park ranger offers guided tours of the main building, outbuildings and slave cabins. Special presentations are offered monthly featuring Civil War reenactments and “The Enslaved Life Tour,” “The Plantation Apothecary,” and “After the Battle.”

AFTON VILLA GARDENS

9047 U.S. Hwy. 61, St. Francisville

The gothic antebellum mansion was destroyed by fire in 1963, but the ruins and gardens are among the most famous and picturesque in the state. In 1972, Genevieve and Morrell Trimble undertook the task of restoring the grounds. Today, the estate contains over 20 acres of formal gardens and pleasure grounds, including famous ruins gardens, a formal pattern garden, a daffodil valley, and a historic family cemetery.

CATALPA PLANTATION

9508 Old U.S. 61, St. Francisville

(225) 635-3372

This Victorian cottage served primarily as a cotton plantation in the antebellum period. The grounds were devastated during the Civil War, and the plantation and house burned. The cottage was rebuilt, and that cottage still stands. Catalpa’s oak alley is thought to be the only one in Louisiana which has an elliptical shape. The house is open daily for tours.

BUTLER GREENWOOD PLANTATION 8345 U.S. 61, St. Francisville

(225) 635-6312

Built in the 1790s, the plantation contains furniture original to the house, including family heirlooms and artifacts.

COTTAGE PLANTATION

10528 U.S. 61, St. Francisville

(225) 635-3674

This is the oldest plantation complex in the area. The house sits on its original Spanish land grant. Buildings on tour include the old school house, milk house, carriage house and slave

See HISTORIC, page 7F