Friday, November 14, 2008

An Historic Walk Through St. Francisville

"The second-oldest incorporated town in Louisiana began as a burial ground." So begins the brochure from the West Feliciana Historic Society Museum, refering to St. Francisville (LA). It seems that Spanish Capuchin monks crossed the Mississippi to bury the dead on the highland bluffs, since floodwaters often made burials impossible on their side of the Mississippi. The settlement that grew up around the graveyard took its name from the order's patron, St. Francis.

Today, there are some 146 structures in the town's National Register Historic District. This stately home appears worthy of recognition, but is not on the Register.

A walk around the historic district with the Museum's brochure located some of the structures on the National Register.

Virginia, a Greek Revival town house, began as a one-room store in 1817. In 1826, it was expanded to a storey-and-a-half cottage. The cast iron balconies were added in 1855.

The Court House, built in 1903, was so unpopular that those responsible for the demolition of the old court house refused to have their names displayed on the cornerstone, which remains blank.

The Romanesque Bank Building was built in 1905.

Admiral Dewey is believed to have dined at the Widow Ross' House when he was a midshipman and Dora Ross was supportive of the Union.

Hillcroft is a grand Neoclassical townhouse built in 1905.

Organized in 1827, Grace Episcopal Church is the second oldest Episcopal Church in Louisiana. The present structure was built 1858-1860; its cornerstone was laid by Leonidas Polk, the fighting Bishop of the Confederacy. During the Civil War, Confederate and Union troops stopped fighting for a day to honor the Union's Captain John Hart's request for a Masonic funeral.

Built from plans drawn up by Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard in 1871, Our Lady of Mount Carmel roman Catholic Church was completed in 1893.

After a full day of "historic" walking, we opted for a brief cruise. We were whisked away for a 12-minute ride across the Mississippi on the St. Francisville ferry.

A fine ending to the day.

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