NHF kicks off Roque House Rehabilitation Project with Groundbreaking Ceremony

A Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Roque House Rehabilitation Project was held on May 12 on the downtown riverbank. The Natchitoches Historic Foundation and the Cane River Waterway Commission have partnered on the project to preserve and renovate one of the state’s most iconic buildings.

The Ceremony marks the beginning of the construction phase of the project, which is estimated to take 9 months. The goal is to reopen the area, which will be closed to the public during construction, for the Christmas Festival. Additional work, including landscaping, will be finished in the spring of 2023, which is when the NHF plans to hold a ReOpening Ceremony.

Cane River National heritage Area Executive Director Rebecca Blakenbaker introduced the speakers for the event. The CRNHA works in partnership with many entities in the community to preserve and promote the historic resources of the region.

NHF President Terri Cunningham, Roque House Steering Committee Chairman Ben Barron, DSW Construction, Tipton Associates, Jim Rhodes with the Cane River Waterway Commission, and Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. offered their remarks.

The Roque House was relocated in 1967 to downtown Natchitoches from its original location in the Isle Brevelle community down Cane River Lake. It was originally built in 1803 by Yves Pacale, a freed man of color. It is a circa 1790s French Creole post on sill house with three rooms. The house is a remarkable example of the Creole style of French architecture along Cane River. Constructed in typical French colonial fashion with hand-hewn cypress and a bousillage fill (a mixture of mud, Spanish moss and animal hair), the structure was topped with an oversize roof of durable shingles. A close inspection of the house reveals the craftsmanship of Pacale in the jointing. It contained no nails.

The Roque House is among the oldest surviving examples of Creole architecture in Natchitoches Parish, home of the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches was founded in 1714. The structure may be the only remaining circa 1790s French Creole post on sill house built by a freed man of color.

The Roque House Rehabilitation Project has been in the works for over two years. As one of the few remaining bousillage structures left standing in the US, its need for preservation reached a critical peak after the flood of 2016. The structure took on about 2 feet of water that caused significant damage to its structure.

One of the challenges of putting humpty dumpty back together so to speak, was a greater more long-term concern of preserving this historic building, located in a flood-prone area, and making it more resilient to flooding hazards. The NHF and its partners share a common love and appreciation for the story the Roque House has to tell.

The mission of Natchitoches Historic Foundation is to support and promote the preservation of history in Natchitoches Parish through education and advocacy. This jewel sits prominently in historic Natchitoches, and we are excited to share its unique history.