Monday, March 12, 2012

THE AUTREY HOUSE in Dubach, Louisiana

A few weekends ago, I visited a restored dog-trot in a neighboring Louisiana Parish. It was built 39 years before THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, and I was inspired beyond belief while walking through this very primitive Cracker House. Here are a few details about this wonderful property that I found on the historic marker displayed outside of THE AUTREY HOUSE:

Built 1849
OLDEST RESTORED DOGTROT LOG HOUSE IN LINCOLN PARISH, LOUISIANA. Built on 200 acres by Absalom Autrey and his wife Elizabeth Norris Autrey after they moved from Selma, Alabama in 1848. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 10th, 1980.

Once inside the house, I found this information:

The Absalom Autrey house is an example of the log dog trot, the most common traditional house type of the early north Louisiana hill country. Built in 1849 and believed to be the oldest surviving structure in Lincoln Parish, the hand-hewn log house with square notches has an open central hall, with two rooms on each side and a sleeping loft above. The original ironstone chimney on the east side still stands. The stairs to the loft have been replaced. The front rooms have interior walls of beaded board walls.
Behind the house is the family cemetery, with the graves of Absalom Autrey, his first wife Elizabeth Norris, second wife Kezia McCalla, other family members, and African Americans who served the family before and after the Civil War. Some of the graves are unmarked.
Absalom Autrey, the builder of the house and a typical pioneer of the area, moved by wagon to present day Lincoln Parish from Selma, Alabama, in 1848, with his wife Elizabeth Norris and their fourteen children. On the 200-acre plot of land he purchased on Bird Creek, they grew cotton and corn for cash and raised vegetables and livestock and hunted game for food. The Autrey House in its day was considered one of the finest in the region. Sturdily built to last generations, the house was occupied by his descendants through the first quarter of this century and later rented until the early 1970's. The Autrey House is owned by the Lincoln Parish Museum and is supervised by an appointed advisory board.

OPEN: April - September
Third Saturday and Sunday, 2-4pm and by special appointment. Advance appointments and guided tours must be scheduled by calling SUSAN ROACH (318-257-2728), Liz Trammell (318-777-3495), or the Lincoln Parish Museum (318-251-0018.)

I had a few thoughts to share with you about this lovely dog-trot. First, THE AUTREY HOUSE is located in close proximity to THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, though we are in two different Parishes. (For those non-Louisianians reading the blog, we have Parishes instead of Counties in our state.) I am absolutely amazed that THE AUTREY HOUSE still stands, and that it has been so lovingly restored. Walking through the old central hallway, I began to understand why LESTAR MARTIN (historic architect who drew our plans for the SUGAR CREEK restoration) was so excited about our dog-trot. If THE AUTREY HOUSE was considered one of the finest in the region in its day, then THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK would have been an absolute mansion. From what I have been able to research, nothing like THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK exists elsewhere in Louisiana. We estimate that our dog-trot was somewhere around 3000-3500 square feet before the original kitchen and dining rooms were removed. That's a big house by modern standards, so I can only imagine that it was considered enormous for a rural home in 1800s north Louisiana.

Seeing the historic marker at THE AUTREY HOUSE also made me very excited. One day soon, people will have the opportunity to tour THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK and learn about the early pioneers of northern Louisiana. I am a bit of a history buff (as you might have noticed!) and this makes me deliriously happy. We will be able to give tours of our dog-trot, and also tell people EXACTLY what life was like in the early days of the house. Thanks to Mrs. Vera's memoir, we will be able to point out tiny details that were miraculously saved. What are the odds that we would have the chance to restore one of the only remaining two story dog-trots in our entire state, and that we would also have unearthed memoirs, photographs, and even original furniture to go with it! We've had an incredible amount of "good luck" while restoring this house. People literally stop by and bring us photographs and stories about early life in the house. I don't know why these details seem to fall in place for us, but they certainly do. I guess this restoration was simply meant to be!

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