Historic Structures

Roubieu-Jones Plantation House, Natchez Louisiana

Date added: April 26, 2016 Categories: Louisiana Plantations & Farms House

The Roubieu-Jones House has also been known as the Reform Plantation, and the Carroll Jones House.

The Roubieu-Jones House was, originally, a full-story raised Creole plantation house constructed of brick masonry on the ground floor, and with colombage framing filled in with bousillage on the principal level. The two-and-a-half-story building incorporated a Nonnan three-cell base module floor plan with a two rear cabinet rooms and a loggia. A large steeply pitched hipped roof extended eleven feet beyond the main floor's exterior wall creating a full-length gallery that was probably held up with five chamfered colonettes. The house was built around 1818 by Francois Roubieu who probably received the land as a gift or dowry after marrying the daughter of Julien Rachal. It appears that Rachal purchased the land from Remy Lambre at some time before 1818. Francois Roubieu was the son of Gaspard Roubieu, a French native who had immigrated to the St. Louis, Missouri area in the late eighteenth century, where his son Francois was bom. Apparently, Gaspard secured a land grant from the Spanish and started a plantation along the Cane River, and he also served as the Lieutenant of the militia.

Although the Roubieu-Jones House was built utilizing the traditional plan and construction method of Creole design, the house was constructed to function and to serve as a symbol of a new social order. The three-cell Norman plan was a hybrid of the basic two-room Nonnan cottage. In the basic plan, the main living space was the public room, while the other room was the more private sleeping chamber. In the three-room plan, the central room was the public room, the larger flanking room was the master bedroom, and the smaller room was for a lower status resident on the plantation. Whereas the three-room Nonnan plan was used in the Spanish era on some of the grander homes, it became a fixture on the Louisiana plantation landscape after the American purchase of the territory. It seems reasonable to conclude that because the three-room plan afforded more layers of public versus private, and more readable displays of floor plan hierarchy, the three-room plan was more like its contemporary American architectural plans, and was therefore, more attuned to the articulation of the new plantation political economy. The ability to manipulate power relations spatially on the plantation, was the principal means whereby planters asserted the primacy of their rule. According to historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Relations among household members, like relations among family members, were not equal. Just as the family fell to the authority of the father, the household fell to that of the master, and father and master were one and the same ... the unit was in the first instance the master's although other members could also name it as their own. Indeed, they were encouraged to, but only according to their station. For if the master no doubt welcomed their heartfelt identification, he never intended the identification of others to challenge the primacy of his own.”

The Roubieu-Jones House is a two-and-a-half-story building with a Norman three-cell base module floor plan flanked by a row of peripheral rooms, hallways, and closets on both the ground and main floors. The bays are horizontally asymmetrical. The northeast and southwest fayades both have five bays, while both the southeast and northeast facades have three bays. The length of the house is 52'-5'' long and the width is 46'-7" wide.

The ground floor, like the main floor, is centered on a three-cell base module design. To the rear of the main threecell plan, there is a series of peripheral rooms, walkways and exterior openings. In the central room and in the southeast room, there is a brick fireplace. The brick on the exterior walls and fireplace is not made of the original brick, however. It is probable that the fireplace was covered with new brick and that, originally, the rear of the ground floor plan did not include exterior walls, and was, therefore, open. This notion is supported by the fact that the rear rooms tend to follow the plan from the main floor's original plan, with one room underneath each original cabinet room, an open room where the loggia was overhead, and another small hall where the stairs from the former loggia ran downward. Thus, it was easier to enclose the rear of the ground floor by using the dimensions and framing that was part of the original plan.

Like the ground floor, the principal floor is centered with a Norman three-cell base module with a row of peripheral rooms to the rear, and the gallery in the front The three-cell base module is aligned with a central salle, a master bedchamber to the southeast, and a slightly smaller (roughly 4' smaller in width) bedchamber to the northwest. On the original plan, the center room was the salle, the southeast room was the master bedchamber, and the northwest room was the bedchamber. Originally the back of the house had two cabinet rooms on each side with a loggia between them. Currently, the rear of the house is enclosed. In the salle there are two sets of doors that open up onto the gallery, a doorway with a door that opens into the stairhall, a doorway with a door that leads into the master chamber, and a doorway with a door leading into the chamber. On the southeast partition, there is a fireplace. In the master chamber, there is one door that opens onto the gallery, one doorway with a door that opens into the salle, and on the southwest side of the master chamber there is a door opening with a door that leads into the narrow hall that leads to the closets, bathroom, and stair-hall. On the northeast fa~ade of the master chamber, there is a large window. On the southeast facade there are two windows spaced symmetrically on the outside wall. There is a fireplace on the northwest partition. The bathroom (the former southeast cabinet room) has one window on the southeast elevation and a doorway with a door that enters into the narrow hall. Southeast from the stair-hall, in the rear of the house, is a narrow hall that leads to a broom closet on the right, and then a large closet on the right halfway down the hall. Finally, the hallway ends in a bathroom, which was originally the southeast cabinet room. The narrow hallway has five entrance ways: one into the master chamber, one into the bathroom, one into the large closet, one into the broom closet, and one main entrance with a door that opens from the stairhall. Behind the salle is a small stair-hall. Set into the rear southeast comer of the stair-hall wall is a door that opens into a small winder staircase that leads to the attic. On the rear southwest side of the stair hall a staircase leads to the ground floor. Between the northeast wall of the stair-hall and the ground floor staircase, a door opens into the children's room, which was part of the original northwest cabinet room. On the southwest wall of the children's room, there is a window. On the southeast side, a doorway with a door opens into the narrow hall, which runs parallel with the length of the house between the bathroom and the stair-hall. In the northwest bedchamber, there is a door that opens onto the gallery and there are two windows on the northwest wall. On the southwest wall, there are two closets.

The only major alteration to the original plan was the enclosing of the rear loggia creating several new hallways and closets. On the ground floor, the space beneath the rear loggia was enclosed creating several new spaces. The fireplaces and chimney were covered with new brick, and new wraparound mantles and ovennantles were added at some time in the twentieth century. Also, several doors, moldings, and various decorative ornamentations were replaced at different times throughout the house's history. Only one of the original windows survives, and it is located on the front elevation. The doublefaced moldings in the salle, and in various other places, are the original moldings. The exterior staircase, which ran from the ground to the main floor, was originally underneath the front gallery running parallel with the length of the house, but was replaced with a wide central staircase that rises to the middle northeast edge of the front gallery. In addition, the floor joists for the gallery were replaced at some point in the twentieth century, and the balustrade, which runs the length of the house, was replaced at least twice. Io Also on the gallery, the colonettes were replaced at least four times. On the northwest, southwest, and southeast exterior fa~ades of the main floor asbestos siding was placed over the original wood covering. At some point in middle-to-late antebellum era, two dormers were placed on the northeast roof slope. The house was modernized with plumbing and electricity at some point in the twentieth century. Finally, a lean-to shed was added to the rear of the house.