Historic Structures

Building Description Kent Plantation, Alexandria Louisiana

The house dates from the very late eighteenth century or early nineteenth century, with flanking pavilions added, probably in the early 1830's or 1840's. The rear addition including the rebuilding of the rear part of the roof was done subsequently.

The construction of the house is typical of the French and Spanish colonial periods in Louisiana, a type of construction that continued in use well into the period following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The house is raised well above the ground on brick pillars. Heavy timbers placed upon these pillars form the sills upon which the timbers of the wall or framework of "colombage" was erected. The spaces between these timbers was then filled with a mixture of mud and moss or deer hair called "bouzillage." Where protected by galleries or in the interior, this construction was left exposed or covered with a thin coating of plaster or layers of lime-wash, either white or colored. On exterior walls exposed to the weather, the "bouzillage" was covered with wide, feather-edged boards. When the flanking pavilions were built, the style had changed and they were covered on the outside with weatherboards, and, probably at the same time, the old board covering on the rest of the house was also covered over with weatherboards. It is also possible that new and larger columns were placed on the front gallery and a new cornice added, to give the house a then more stylish Greek Revival appearance.

The plan of the house is basically two large square rooms, each with a door and flanking windows opening onto the galleries. A single large chimney with fireplaces back-to-back furnished heat for the two rooms. A broad gallery surrounded the basic core, but probably before the house was completed the end galleries were enclosed with "bouzillage" to form an additional room at each end of the house and another small room or "cabined" enclosed each end of the gallery at the rear. This was a characteristic plan form of the French and Spanish colonial periods in Louisiana which also continued to be used after 1803. Evidence in the framing of the joists of the rear gallery floor indicates the location of a stairway at one end, leading to the ground or basement floor. A large hipped roof covered the entire house including the galleries, protecting the interior from sun and rain and enabling the doors and windows to be left open for maximum ventilation even during the heaviest summer rains. The owners eventually may have desired to enclose the recessed rear gallery, as often happened, and then built a new rear gallery across the entire back of the house. At that time, the entire rear slope of the roof was rebuilt, without, however, disturbing the original rear hip rafters which may still be seen in the attic. Perhaps the builder decided to widen this new rear gallery after the new hip rafters had been set and did so by allowing the new rafters to extend below the old eave line, resulting in curious roof form as seen in the side elevations of the house. Additional exploration of the structure of this rear addition might reveal more information regarding its original form and detail. Perhaps some of original columns might be found concealed in the walls, for this was undoubtedly built as an open gallery, possibly partially enclosed with wood louvers.