Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Return Visit to Poste des Opelousas

Back in April of last year, I promised to make a return trip to the little village of Washington, Louisiana, the 3rd oldest settlement in Louisiana.  It is said that now 80% of the village is on the National Historic Registry.
The following information came from this link (pictures are mine): Washington, Louisiana 

Founded in 1720 and incorporated in 1835, the community was first established as Poste des Opelousas, a French trading post. Early records indicate that the community was later called Church Landing because the settlement included the first church in the Opelousas district, La Iglesia Paroquial de la Immaculada Conception del Puesto de Opelousas, built in 1774.
 
Of course the original church building is long gone, but when the replacement was burned to the ground a few years ago, the new church was designed to replicate the original as close as possible.  It is a beautiful little Catholic church occupying a full village block.
In the 1800′s, Washington was an important steamboat port with cotton, cattle, sugar, and molasses being the major products shipped from the region. It became the largest steamboat port between New Orleans and St. Louis, Missouri. Bayou Courtableau is the western border of the village and now only a small, muddy tributary that eventually feeds into larger bayous and lakes further southwest.
Seen from across the bayou, the building on the right above is now said to be owned by a "couple movie stars" and was once a hotel.
 It does not appear that the "movie stars" are doing much with this historic building today.
 
With the arrival of the railroad in 1883, Washington’s importance as a center of commerce declined. The last steamboat departed in 1900, leaving the town with a wealth of antebellum plantation homes and Victorian houses that have today formed the basis for a significant and growing tourism industry.
Along side this beautifully maintained Plantation home, is what I think must have been at one time a "paved" path for wagon wheels.
The town of Washington is to Louisiana what Williamsburg is to Virginia.  Unlike Williamsburg, however, with its many reconstructed replicas, the historic homes and businesses of Washington are graceful, original buildings from Louisiana’s nineteenth century past.
  For example, the old Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant located on Bayou Courtableau just upstream from the steamboat turnaround, is a fascinating reminder of the bustling steamboat era which drew to a close only after the coming of the railroad in the late 1800′s.
  This is now the Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant.
 
Washington contains many examples of various Architecture, ranging from board and batten cottages to towering plantation houses with full galleries.
Front and back of a stately old house.
 Characteristic of the old Louisiana Plantation homes is the detached kitchen.  It was here the slaves would have cooked for safety purposes.  This house is a perfect example of what it looked like.  I'm sure this long-ago cooking place is now used for a more practical purpose.
This lovely old home on the bayou embankment, can also be seen in a picture above from across the bayou.
Washington has many wonderful old live oaks, many of which are recorded in the register of the Louisiana Live Oak Society.  They are definitely one of my favorite things about this historic place.

This is the only house of this particular style in the village.  It is more of a New Orleans architecture than the other homes.  Notice the rear open balcony and ornate iron smaller balcony on front.
 Another feature found on many of the homes here is the outdoor staircase.  Originally, the staircase would have led to the attic area.  Today, many of them are just simply there.

The brick commercial buildings on Main Street are also of major interest, since a number of them still maintain their 19th century ornamental store fronts.
 The old high school is now an amazing antique mall.
I found the old cemetery to be very interesting.  Many tombstones dated back to the Civil War.
Also, found in the cemetery are some ancient cypress trees.  The gnarls and bark patterns are unlike any other tree.
Speaking of the old oaks, I was photographing a tree when I noticed a white ball on one of the tree trunks.  I switched to my zoom lens to see what it was.  Imagine my surprise when I found this beauty.
Once the site of Plonsky’s Opera House, the Museum contains memorabilia from Washington Steamboat Days and also houses many interesting artifacts of Washington’s past and maps of the area.
 So, when traveling down I-49 in central Louisiana you just might want to look for the exit to Washington and explore this historic little village as I did. 

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7 comments:

  1. Elizabeth, this is such a fascinating post...I have traveled to Louisiana with my husband for business on many occasions and have enjoyed many wonderful places, but not to Washington. I know that now we must go. Loved seeing the historic homes, buildings, and those stately live oaks! Thanks for taking me along!

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    1. Thank you Pam. I do hope you have a return trip to our beautiful state soon. There is truly much to see and enjoy.

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  2. Loved this post so much. Louisiana is so rich in history and you have captured the heart this little village so beautifully. Definitely makes me want to visit some day. The snow white kitty was a delightful surprise, for sure!

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  3. Libby, we have been to Washington many times and brought back cherished memories. Thank you for sharing this. We also love Grand Coteau. Lots of history there too.

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  4. Seeing "Opelousas" in your title drew my interest and what to my amazement did I find? A neighbor!! I'm in vivian which is about 23 miles north of shreveport.....and since I am in shreveport on a daily basis, it seems, I feel shrevport is home too!!!
    I've been to Washington many times on gal pal trips to do the antique shops....very cool things in that ol' high school.
    Nice to meet ya!!

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  5. Sounds like this would be a fun day trip. Such beautiful homes and buildings with such character. Interesting post!

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  6. What a unique place to visit...great photos, Libby! Appreciate you sharing!

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