The Natchitoches Historic Foundation recently moved the Roque House to its new location facing Cane River Lake on the downtown riverbank in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
The move itself was extremely successful, according to David Mains, chief executive officer at DSW Construction. Simoneaux Home Movers shored up the structure and moved it using motorized hydraulic jacks to prevent any damage.
“It was a very smooth transition,” Mains added.
The move was necessitated by flooding in 2016 which severely damaged the original bousillage walls of the Roque House. In order to save this historical structure, the NHF decided to relocate the Roque House 7.5 feet above the level of Cane River Lake.
The NHF received a $50,000 grant from the Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program for the move itself. This grant program funds projects focused on transforming vacant or underutilized buildings in Louisiana’s Main Street communities.
Now that the structure has been moved, work to restore it will commence. This includes adding a white wash/lime wash to the outside of the bousillage walls once they’re repaired. This will repel boring bees after extensive damage discovered on the existing structure.
Some challenges the restoration crew has encountered include damaged support beams and rotten roof shingles.
The damage to the existing sills due to rotting from the flood means they need to be replaced before the house can be lowered down onto its new foundation. They’re currently working to locate material that is as close to the original wood as possible to replace the beams. This means they must not only locate the wood, but also get the material approved by the architect.
As crews removed shingles from the roof, each piece of wood was rotten, brittle, and to NHF’s dismay, unsalvageable. This led the organization to look at a synthetic version that will give the structure longevity so future generations can learn about it.
What’s next after these issues are addressed?
An 8 foot veranda will wrap around the Roque House to further protect the building from the elements. This is customary in French Creole architecture. A support building will be constructed adjacent to the Roque House for a restroom, to house electrical equipment, and for storage.
The brick promenade along Cane River Lake will be continued to the very north end, connecting Beau Jardin to the rest of the riverbank.
Each of these parts to the Roque House project are ways the NHF is working to adaptively restore this essential part of the story of Cane River Lake.
“It is one of the very few structures in Louisiana remaining from days as the Louisiana Purchase was finalized and we became part of the United States,” said Cane River Waterway Commission President Jim Rhodes. “The building remains a historic and cultural icon in remarkable condition, available for thousands of residents and visitors to appreciate, thanks to the care in the past three decades by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation.”
There’s still more exciting news concerning the Roque House. A series of granite memorial slabs will be installed the length of the project site. This Preservation Wall is the perfect way to honor people who have contributed to the preservation of Natchitoches’ history and culture.
Honor someone, or simply add a name to the wall by going online to RoqueHouse.com and follow the onsite instructions to put your name on the wall. It’s just a $150 donation to become memorialized as part of Natchitoches’ history forever.
“We wanted to give everyone the chance to be a part of history. Whether your ancestors are from the area, your business operates in the area, or you’ve visited a few times and fell in love with the southern charm and hospitality,” said Roque House Steering Committee Chairman Ben Barron. “We’re preserving the Roque House for future generations. It’s OUR house.”
The Natchitoches Historic Foundation is dedicated to its mission of preservation, education and advocacy. Donations from the Preservation Wall project will go toward the future operation and maintenance of the Roque House once the renovation is complete.