Tony Adrian and Matt Henrich had a great idea: line up seven historic homes on Front Street in Arnaudville and turn a literal trash dump along Bayou Teche into guest house accommodations for tourists.
But it meant moving and renovating dilapidated homes dating from the late 1800s to the early 20th century and bringing in an excavator to clean out an area that had been used as a communal dump for years.
“We got at least three dump trucks full of trash,” Adrian said. “Thankfully no barrels, just household trash.”
Two existing Front Street homes were moved closer together to make room for five additional similarly decrepit homes that were moved to the site.
The seven buildings, all lined up in a row, will make up what’s being called “Les Deux Mondes,” or “The Two Worlds.”
“They are fairly close together, but that’s how they used to be historically,” Adrian said. “The front porches would face the bayou. It’s going to be celebrating the bayou instead of ignoring it.”
The easiest move would have been to renovate the properties and turn them into rental units, Adrian said, but their goal was to find a trashed piece of land and clean it up, then make it economically viable with little environmental footprint.
Adrian lives in a house designed by Lafayette architect Eddie Cazayoux, who promotes the reuse of materials and a low environmental impact. Adrian’s Leonville home, for instance, is powered by solar energy and uses rainwater for its plumbing.
Adrian and Henrich used Cazayoux as a consultant on the venture and plan to use green initiatives as much as possible.
The homes of Les Deux Mondes will be well-insulated and at least partially renovated with wood that Adrian rescued and milled on his property. The partners hope to eventually install solar panels and rainwater collectors once they establish an income stream from the guest houses.
Arnaudville has become an artist haven in the past decade, part of what’s known as Deux Bayous Cultural District and home to NUNU Arts and Culture Collective.
Arnaudville is also at the heart of the Corridor des Arts, an art and culture trail connecting Arnaudville with neighboring cities such as Grand Coteau and Cecilia.
The guest houses will provide accommodations to both tourists and visiting artisans and artists, Adrian said.
He plans to build dogtrots between two or three of the houses to accommodate groups and family reunions.
For now, the seven homes appear much as they had in their decrepit state, which Adrian admits isn’t making neighbors very happy.
The roofs of the seven houses were removed in order to move the houses, but they are in the process of being replaced. The next step will be to repair and paint the outsides so the houses will have curb appeal.
The partners will then renovate one house interior at a time.
“So at least the outsides will be OK, so when people come to stay, it will look nice,” Adrian said.
The interiors contain such early 20th-century elements as cypress beadboard, cheesecloth-adhered wallpaper and unique steps alongside a wall curving upward for attic access.
“Cajuns used to dry their clothes in the attic,” Adrian said.
The houses will contain modern features, but Adrian hopes to maintain the integrity of each home’s time period. In addition, his goal is to employ “old-time carpenters” with attention to detail and to purchase materials locally.
“We want to make sure we’re part of the community,” he said.
The first unit should be ready by early 2015.
Adrian hopes the project will inspire others to save buildings of this time period, many of which have been overlooked in the past and torn down.
“In 50 years, a house built in 1910 will be worth something,” he said. “It’s been great that we could save these.”