Historic Structures

Fannie Riche Plantation House, New Roads Louisiana

Date added: November 12, 2013 Categories: Louisiana House Plantations & Farms

New Roads in Pointe Coupee Parish is one of the few portions of Louisiana that to-day still has marked French characteristics, and, though it is doubtful if any of its buildings go back to the French days, what remains was built in a tradition that had been inherited, and, as is so interesting in Louisiana architecture, the older forms are clothed in the details of the newer generation which was imeriean. Fannie Riche so well represents this peculiar phase - a West Indian house raised higher than usual with a porch on three sides. The roof is hipped with an over-hang of cut brackets and on the front are two small dormers with engaged columns similar to the mantels in the house. The attic was not used as the only entrance is through a scuttle. The usual two large middle rooms are across the front and on the rear are smaller rooms, where may have been a porch. A staircase leads to the ground from the front porch, but it is modern and in subsequent renovations the marks of the original stair were removed. This could have been inside the porch as was the early custom. A door for a rear stair does not explain itself, though it may have connected to a detached kitchen, a later arrangement that was common in this neighborhood.

The details of the living room are most interesting and we are curious as to the background of the man who did this work. While some of the moldings are of early classical revival extractions, the form of the mantel is early Louisiana, decorated in what could be called late colonial, particularly in the triple arches and the reeding of the chimney breast. The complicated cornice somehow has a feeling of the West Indies, but no doubt it is derived from a late 18th century colonial model. The star and the moon in the panels of the mantel, somewhat out of scale, add another motive to this polyglot room. The mantels in the minor rooms, simpler in detail, but with a variety of reeds and panels give these rooms a more native character. Their large open fireplaces, with the fire-brick close to the woodwork, have inherited from the early French a feeling for scale and fitness of purpose peculiar to these people.

The detail of the exterior casement doors is excellent and the transoms with segmented fan-lights with a star covering the joints of the muntins and the curious filling in with an ornament of wood suggesting a wrought iron form are a pleasing local addition.

The lower brick columns, now square, were round with caps, are common to the area; such a pilaster still exists and pieces of round columns were found in the field. Above on the main floor are the usual turned colonettes, though none too refined in their detail. The bottom floor was used as a dining room, for remnants of the panelling of the chimney breast were in place.

Fannie Riche is within 100 yards of a levee that has been often moved and similar houses were no doubt in the neighborhood. On the grounds of the plantation is a slave cabin built from remnants of a similar house. The doorway has the identical fan-lights as Fannie Riohe and in the bedroom is a mantel similar to the one in the main house, but somehow the use of fillets and a restraint of ornament and its color, a faded blue bronze green, distinguishes this mantel.

The legend is that Fannie Riche was the colored unlawful wife of a Pointe Coupse planter who willed the plantation to her as was a common practice. Prior to 1893 the property was omed by Anita Cevelin who was said to have been colored.