Synopsis of Research into French and
Spanish Colonial Architecture of Mississippi
Final Report Architectural History 681
Peter F. Dessauer
November 3, 1975
Unv. of Florida, College of Architecture,Preservation
Colonial Architecture and Settlements
in the Mississippi: Final Synopsis
slide 1; New France, Canada and the Mississippi.
A. French Claims to the New World: Mississippi Region
The French were in competition with the English and Spanish
to divide the spoils of the New World. In New France, which
stretched along the St. Lawrence River in Canada and the
Great Lakes south on the Mississippi to the Gulf, the French
hoped to found a new empire.
1. La Salle; 1682: claimed the Mississippi for France and
named it "Louisiana".
2. 1699- settlement at Biloxi, led by Pierre le Moyne,
Sieur d'Iberville, prompted by Spanish fort at Pensacola,
Florida, and the sighti-ng of English ships sailing up the
3. Louisiana: Regions in the southern Mississippi were settled
by colonists-from France, Frenchmen from the Caribbean
Islands, Cajuns (French evicted from Newfoundland by the
English), Negro slaves, Germans, Royalists fleeing the
Revolution (1790's), and Spaniards including Islenos
from the Canary Islands (1770's).
a. Principal settlements: New Orleans, Natchitoches, Biloxi,
4. Illinois Country: settled by Frenchmen from Canada and Great
a. Principal settlements: Kaskaskia (1695), Cahokia (1700),
Vincennes (1735), St. Louis (1764).
B. Capsule History of Colonial Mississippi
1. 1682-1763: French Colonial Period; concluded when France
surrendered Canada and the east bank to England, the west
bank and New Orleans to Spain
2. 1763-1783: English Period; with the conclusion of the American
Revolution England surrendered lands in the Ohio Valley
to the United States and Spain acquired control of the
3. 1763- 1800: Spanish colonial period in the Mississippi.
When Napoleon invaded Spain and put his brother on the
throne, Louisiana once again became a French possession.
4. 1804: Louisiana purchase; U.S. acquires Mississippi
Region and the Great Plains for $15,000,000.00
C. Reasons for colonization of the Mississippi:France and Spain
1. Build forts to protect claims
2. surround and interdict English claims on the Atlantic
3.Acquisition of raw materials; furs, wood, money crops
4. Proselytization of the Christian Faith
5. settlements encouraged by companies seeking profits
in the New World.
D. Reasons for the slow Growth of Colonial Mississippi:
By 1776, there were 2,700,00 settlers in the British Thirteen
Colonies but only some 300,000 in Canada and along the Miss-
issippi, an expanse of 3000 miles.
1. Such a small population scattered over such a large expanse
made defense and communications difficult.
2. Failure of Agriculture; in Louisiana no single crop was
successful enough to bring great profits into the colony.
Indigo and tobacco were grown around New Orleans;
however, competition for the cultivation and sale of these
crops was so prevalent throughout the New World that
Louisiana could never corner and control any markets.
Illinois proved to be the bread basket of the Mississippi,
sending an annual surplus of wheat to the Delta Region.
3. Apathy and disinterest in Europe; When a colony of
France and Spain, Louisiana was under strict economic
meritime laws which prohibited trade'with any other party
than the ruling Mother country; European governments were
more interested in exacting profits from Louisiana than
allowing the colonials rights of self-determination to
improve their own economic situation.
4. Wars with England: Communication with Spain and France
was cut off; trade nil and depression followed.
E. First settlement shelters:
1. For the first thirty years 6f settlement (1699-1730)
most buildings in Louisiana were crude shelters and
cabins copied from aboriginal examples, all temporary
palisade wall huts-with thatch roofing.
Defenses- log palisade and ditch
* slides 2,3)4,
F. French Medieval Construction Techniques- precedent and
sources of Mississippi Colonial Architecture.
slides 5,6,7,8,9; from Maisons de Normandie
High pitched hipped roof, vertical wood frame of
pouteaux, infill of brick. Mortise and Tenon treatment-
summer beam rests on top of post with front girt and
roof plate made of three smaller members.
G. Evolution of the Mississippi "Raised Cottage".
"The early buildings in Louisiana evolved out of the
materials on hand, the exigenicies of the climate,
and the needs of the colonists. The actual methods of
building were the heritage of Europe, and, later of the
West Indies, but the forms that developed remain today
as proof of an original growth." p. 136
Harry Hansen, Louisiana, A Guide to the State
"Architecture must never be separated from its economic
and geographic background. The land and the climate
ultimately determine the kind of materials used, the height
of the ceilings, and the cost of the building." p.17
Frazer Smith, White Pillars, Early Life
and Architecture of the Lower Mississippi
The French tradition of "Brique Entre Pouteaux", the steep
hip roof and plaster surface over infill was continued
in Louisiana, but was, however, reproduced in a new context
when the following changes in house style were made to
acclimate architecture to the conditions of the Lower
1. Houses were raised a full story off the ground on
brick piers- to avoid innundation,
allow moisture to drift through,
create cooler story underneath.
2. Wide Galerie or porch boarded several or all sides
of the house. This acted to shade the house and
act as a hallway from room to room.
3. 2 1/2 Stories- full ground floor basement- storage, dining
elevated main floor-'bedrooms
attic- loft space
4. Materials Ground Floorv plaster covered brick
Main floor and galerie- cypress pouteaux with
roof- cypress shakes.
H. Example of the Louisiana "Raised Cottage"- the Acadian
House Museum, simple elevated cottage, three rooms on
main story facing front galerie which acts as hallway
between them; gable roof. attic.
I. Town Planning; plans of two settlements, drawn by Capt.
slide 14,plan of Mobile 6irca 1770
slide 15, plan of New Orleans 1770
J. Examples of plantation homes in the Lower Mississippi
Valley built'during the Colonial Period and still
exhibiting French Colonial architectural characteristics.
* slide 16: the Garconniere, Barbara Plantation plan
* slide 17: Chouachas Plantation 1736: Picture drawn by
Montigny, plantantion designed by Le Blond
de la Tour; Chouachas was one of the most
important plantations on the Lower Mississippi,
begun 1719 as a concession of John law's
Compagnie des Indes.
* slides 18,19,20 Ormond Plantation, St. Charles Parish,La.
Plans and elevations show that Ormond began
as a raised cottage, two rooms deep, surrounded
on four sides by a wide galerie; later, flanking
pavilions were added to each side, the galerie
retained as a breezeway and hall between these
and the main central complex.
* slides 21,22 Parlange Plantation, built 1750 by Marquis
Vincent de Ternant in Pointe Coupee Parish.
Like Ormond above, Parlange represents the "enclosed
form" where the house plan, rectaliniar, two rooms
deep is surrounded by a galerie. Front steps; rear
stairways are within the galerie.
* slide 23 Live Oak Plantation, St. Francisville, La.
West Feliciana Parish.
Four bays, facing front galerie, stairs within
galerie, gable roof.
* slide 24 Roque House, Natchitoches, La.
Example of a very early Louisiana house; hipped
roof stucttre with galerie, two roomson interior,
only slightly elevated off the ground on foundation
* slide 25 Riche Plantation, Point Coupee, La.
Simple raised cottage, hip roof, enclosed form with
corner rooms; front double stairway with landing.
* slide 26 Ringrose Plantation (1770) Opelousa, La.; Built by
Michel prud'homme, oldest dwelling in St. Landry Parish.
The Slide shows the galerie of the ground floor,
basement story and piers bf brick.
* slide 27 Holy Hedges Plantation (1796) Natchez, Mississippi
Spanish donation to an American"Don Juan Scott".
1832- alterations and additions of classical details
to this cypress cottage.
* slide 28 Elgin Mansion, occupied 1780, Natchez, Mississippi.
The present conditimoof the fabric exhibits its
1840 form, when enlargements were made by Dr. John
Jenkins which surround the original 18/th portion,
parts of which are still visible in the interior.
The front facade with double portico and raised
story indicate French influence.
* slide 29 Connelly's Tavern ; Natches, Mississippi, built 1796.
The hip to gable roof becomes very prominent in this
part of the Mississippi and northward into the
Illinois and Missouri countries.
See Auguste Chouteau House, slide 41
* slide 30, 31 Keller Mansion (Homeplace Plantation), Hahnville,
Louisiana, built circa 1801.
An excellent example of Louisiana' Colonialr:i.A
Architecture at its greatest point of evolution.
1. Enclosed form, two rooms deep
2. high hipped roof with dormer windows
3. Stairways on the interior and exterior of the
galerie and an inside service stairs.
4. The ground story is stucboed-brick;
(with capitals)in colonade support the gallerie above.
5. The upper story is pouteaux construction covered
6. The Kitchen is located in an out-dwelling detached
from the main house in the rear.
K. The Upper Mississippi: Examples of French-Spanish Colonial
* slides 32,33 Plan map of Kaskaskia and the Pierre Menard
House (1802) of Louisiana French style, the
,only remaining dwelling of a once thriving
French colonial settlement.
* slides 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 -StevGenevieve,'Missouri (1785)
St. Gemme-Amoureaux House: The original had a hip
roof, stone chimney, thatched roof; the gables
and porch are later additions; clapboard exterior.
Janis-Zeigler House (1800): Known as the Green Tree
tavern; boxwood clapboard exterior, evidence
of German-Anglo influence from such settlers
in this region.
Jean Baptiste Valle' House 1785: during the mid 1800's
the following changes took place to greatly alter
the French colonial appearance:
1. extension of stone basement under the porches
2. enlarged roof to include dormer window
3. added "ell" to the rear
4. repartitioned interior
Louis Bolduc House- Before restoration; hip roof
shaved to gable shape, clapboard exterior,
Louis Bolduc House- After restoration; Hip roof
restored, with surrounding galerie; pouteaux
and bousillage exposed; stockade and garden;
It is interesting to note that the colonial houses of.
St,-Genevieve were not raised-a full story but only a few
feet off the ground, the same was true for the later houses
in St. Louis.
*slide 39 "Creole House", Praire du Rocher (1800),Illinois.
1858 alterations with weatherboards by F.W. Briokey
* slide 40 Fort de Chartres, Praire du Rocher, Illinois:
1720-wooden stckade, named for the son of
Phillip II Duke of Orleans
1753- stone fort completed.
1940's- reconstruction of a square plan with
corner bastions, and two opposite
gateways. Walls 18'0" high; interior
parade ground of stone barracks, munitions,
and governor's HQ.
* slide 41 Col. Auguste Chouteau House, St. Louis:
According to the ink drawing done by Hoblitzelle,
the best source for St. Louis colonial architecture,
this house was an elegant example of the French Missouri
version of French Louisiana architecture; the house is
raised a few feet off the ground with a front semi-
enclosed colonnaded portico; the second story is
surrounded by a galerie; the roof is hip to gable
with two dormers.
* slide 42 Spanish Fort St. Louis; photo taken 1850's. tower
* slide 43 Daniel Boone House (1800-1810?), Femme Osage, Mo.
A masonry lean-to house, exemplifying eastern
Anglo influence creeping into the Missouri region
at the turn of the century.
* slide 44 Holy Family Church, Cahokia, Illinois:
Oldest church in the Mississippi Valley. Father
Cosme' founded the Parish in 1699and in the following
year built a church. What now stands is a 1787
reconstruction of the original.
Pouteaux and Columbage construction- vert. timbers
7" thick, 10-12" wide, spaced 9" apart and braced
diagonally, infill with pierrotage (lime and rubble).
1833- rear side wings added.
* slide 45 Roi-Porlier-Tank House, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Built 1776 by French Fur traders; owned by Joseph le Rei1
1805- passed into the hands of Jacques Porlier
1850- Nils tank, a Moravian minister, enlarged the
house, putting clapboards on the exterior, added the
shed wings, and plastered the interior,
Presently- a house museum with a section of the original
wattle and daub infill exposed.
Further sources for our knowledge of French and Spanish
1) Samuel Wilson 1938- researched in the Archives Nationals,
in Paris; there he found the architectural
drawings for New Orleans done by de
Batz, Broutin, designed by le Page.
2) "View of the Mississippi" by Robert Baird, 1832
3) Series of pen and ink sketches made by Clarence Hoblitzelle
of early French St. Louis Architecture.
Pierre Laclede House (1765)
Pierre Chouteau House (1785)
Gabriel Cerre House
Charles Gratiot House (1790) on Kingshighway.
EARLY STE. GENEVIEVE AND ITS ARCHITECTURE
't ep nIp rooT
- Psopc t =
: '-. .1c ring of a French Canadian House and a French Missouri House
French Building and Construction Vocabulary
Half timber; vertical posts with diagonal bracing.
Terre Entre Pouteaux
Mud and Earth (with laths) used as infill
between post structure. See bousillage.
Brique Entre Pouteaux Brick infill between wooden vertical
post structure. In Louisiana the bricks
were so porous that a covering of stucco
was necessary to insure longevity.
Infill of mud and moss, daub, shells, animal hides,
etc. Bouzillees- clay and grass.
Stone and mortar, rubble infill between vertical
post frame; this was the most common method in
Made from clays excavated at Lake Pontchartrain;
very porous, requiring stucco covering.
Burned from shells; weathered poorly when exposed.
in mortar mixture: lime, sand, water.
Portico on front of the house; or veranda surrounding
it, elevated on brick piers. The exact origin of the
Galerie is unknown; it was not a French tradition
and not used in France. probably introduced into
Louisiana from the Caribbean settlements.
House Construction Methods- New France on the Mississippi
1) Mason de Pouteaux en Terre- "House with posts in the Earth"
Palisade walls, fastened together on top; used at first for
domiciles at Biloxi and New Orleans, but only temporary;
unknown in France and Canada; probably taken from Indian
examples or Spanish shelters on the Gulf Coast.
2) Mason de Pieux en Terre- "Round Posts"
Used for out-buildings at St. Geneevieve and Fort Orleans (1724)
3) Mason de Pouteaux sur Solle- "Posts on a Sill"
Vertical frame house, vertical frame posts on a wooden sill
resting on stone foundation. This was the most common type
in early Colonial Louisiana.
4) The Raised Cottage- e.g. Acadian House
Evolved from the Maison de Pouteaux sur Solle; foundations
of brick piers were elevated to a full story, the second
story with bedrooms surrounded by veranada or "Galerie", and
the hip roof was coupled with a pitched Galerie covering.
This became the standard Louisiana House, varying according
to size and decoration as economy could afford.
5) Mason de Pierre- Stone House
Seldom used in the Mississippi area but popular in Canada:;
example in the Illinois Territory is Fort de Chartres Barracks.
6) Mason de Pieces sur Pieces- Horizontal logHouse with "timbers
7) Mason en Boulin- Anglo-Saxon cabin of round, unhewn logs.
Source: "Early St. Genevieve and Its Architecture" by Charles
E. Peterson, The Missouri Historical Review, January
1941, Vol. xxxv, p.p. 207-232.
Slide Presentation: Colonial Mississippi
Peter F. Dessauer
1. Map of New France Settlements: Early American Architecture,
Hugh Morrison, page 254.
2. Conjectural drawing of Ft. Maurepas at Biloxi, Louisiana,
A Narrative History, Davis, page 42.
5o.Aboriginal Temple and Chief's Hut, Spain and Her Rivals on the
Gulf Coast, from "Gulf Coast Architecture", Samuel Wilson, page 98.
4. New Biloxi Shelters, 1720; Louisisana Purchase, Louisiana
Landmark Society, page 10.
5. Diagram of French Norman Building Elements, Maisons de Normandie,
6. French House Styles: 16/th and 17/th centuries; Maisons de
Normandie, page 11.
7. French Norman Farm Building- "Brique entire Pouteaux"; Maisons
de Normandie, page 53.
8. Detail- "Brique entire Pouteaux"; Maisons de Normandie, page 17
9. Mortise and Tenon details, French Norman style: Maisons de
Normandie, page 62.
10. Ink sketch of the Acadian House; Louisiana, A Guide to the
State, page 136.
11. Acadian House Museum; Louisiana Plantation Homes, Overdyke,
12. Typical Plans for simple Acadian House; Early American Architec-
ture, Hugh Morrison, page 263.
13. Service House, Acadian Museum; Louisiana Plantation Homes,
Overdyke, page 24.
14. PLan of Mobile, 1770; The Present State of the European
Settlements on the Mississippi, Captain Philip Pittman.
15. Plan of New Orleans, 1770; The Present State of the European
Settlements on the Mississippi, Captain philip Pittman.
16. The Garconniere, Barbara Plantation, Louisiana Plantation-
Homes, Overdyke, page 40.
17 .Chouchas Plantation1736, Spain and Her Rivals on the Gulf
Coast, "Gulf Coast Architecutre", Samuel Wilson, page 104.
18. Ormond Plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, New Orleans
and Its Environs, Ricciuti, plate 38.
19. Drawn Elevations of Ormond-Plantationl;New Orleans and Its
Environs, plate 112.
20. Drawn Plans of Ormomd Plantation; New Orleans and Its Environs.
Ricciuti, plate 113.'.- -
21. Parlange Plantation, Point Coupee Parish, La.; Louisiana
Plantation Homes, Overdyke, page 152.
22. Plans for Parlange, Louisiana Plantation Homes, Overdyke, page 153.
23. Live Oak Plantation, St Francisville, La;,West Feliciana Parish:
Louisiana Plantation Homes, Overdyke, page 115.
24. Roque House, Nachitoches, La.; Louisiana, A Guide to the State,
25. Elevations and Plans of Riche Plantation, Point Coupee Parish,
La., Louisiana Plantation Homes, Overdyke, page 159.
26. Ringrose Plantation, the Lower Level Colonade: The Heritage of
Early American Houses, Drury, page 242.
27. Holy Hedges Plantantion, Natchez, Mississippi: The Heritage of
Early American Houses, Drury.page 232.
28. Elgin Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi; The Heritage of Early
Early American Houses, Drury, page 229.
29. Connelley's Tavern, Early American Architecture, Hugh Morrison,
30. Homeplace-Keller Plantation, The Arts in America:, Tatum, page 55.
31. Homeplace-Keller Plantation, Plans: Early American Architecture,
Hugh Morrison, page 265.
32. Plan Map of Kaskaskia, 1770; The Present State of the European
Settlements on the Mississippi, by Captain Philip Pittman, page viii
33. Pierre Menard House-Kaskaskia; The Heritage of Early American
Houses, Drury, page 262.
34. Jean Baptiste Valle' House, St. Genevieve, Mo.: The Heritage of
Early American Houses, Drury, page 271.
35. St. Gemme-Amoureaux House, St. Genevieve, Mo.: photo taken
36. Janis Ziegler House, St. Genevieve, Mo.; photo taken August,
37. Louis Buldoc House, restored; phototaken August 1975.
38. Buldoc House before Restoration, Frenchmen and French Ways in the
Mississippi Valley, McDermott, page 159. -;
39. The Greole House, Praire du Rocher; Illinois Architecture, From
Territorial Times to the Present, Koeper, page 225.
40. Fort de Chartres, reconstruction of the gate; Illinois
Architecture, From Territorial Times to the Present,Koeper,
41. Colonel Auguste Chouteau House, St. Louis, Mo., from the
ink drawing by Clarence Hoblitzelle; Missouri's Contribution
to American Architecture, John Albury Bryan, page 16.
42. The Spanish Fort, St. Louis, photo taken circa 1850's; Missouri's
Contribution to Early American Architecture, John Albury Bryan,
43. Daniel Boone House (1800-1810?), at Femme Osage, Mo.: Missouri's
Contribution to Early American Architecture, John Albury Bryan,
44. The Holy Family Church (1795 reconstruction), in Cahokia, Illinois,
Illinois Architecture, From Territorial Times to the Present,
Koeper, page 23.
45. Roi-Porlier-Tank House, Green Bay, Wisconsin; The Heritage of
Early American Houses, Drury, page 266.