The 44th annual Audubon Pilgrimage — set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday — celebrates spring in St. Francisville.
For more than four decades, the West Feliciana Historical Society has thrown open the doors of historic structures to commemorate artist and naturalist John James Audubon, who stayed in the area painting a number of his famous bird studies.
The annual celebration includes tours of private homes and the state historic sites, as well as other daytime and nighttime activities.
Four homes are featured at the Audubon Pilgrimage.
Retreat Plantation was built around 1823 on property of Sarah Bingman and named Soldier’s Retreat by her second husband, Clarence Mulford, a U.S. Army captain at nearby Fort Adams.
A 11/2-story Anglo-Creole home with architectural details set on a bluff overlooking Little Bayou Sara, it has been restored by owners C.B. and Mary C. de Laureal Owen, continuing seven generations of Percy family occupancy since 1859.
At the opposite end of the parish is Dogwood, in the Thompson Creek delta, on lands initially granted by Spain to Jean Cloccinet as part of a failed resettlement of Acadian exiles. The house was begun in 1803 by George Freeland, an early settler from the Carolinas. His initial hewn-log, shed-roof house, two rooms flanking a hallway and topped by a sleeping loft, has been enlarged over the years and is home to the family of Rob and Missy Couhig.
Also on the tour is The Oaks, built in 1888 by Judge Thomas Butler, a Confederate veteran, planter and police juror. From his family’s isolated plantation, Butler moved to be nearer to St. Francisville amenities, embellishing his new house with stained glass, fanciful gingerbread trim, dormers and turrets, Anne Butler, author and local historian, said.
When the last of his nine children died, The Oaks became home to the E.I. Daniel family.
Perched on a hilly lot overlooking St. Francisville’s Ferdinand Street, the Levert-Bockel House was constructed in 1918 for Mamie Bockel Levert using materials salvaged from flooded Bayou Sara properties inherited from her father, a prosperous Prussian immigrant saddler.
In the bungalow’s front room, her husband, Dr. Eloi Levert, practiced medicine. It is the home of the Tom Tully family.
Other popular features of the 2015 Audubon Pilgrimage include Audubon (Oakley Plantation) and Rosedown State Historic Sites; Afton Villa Gardens; three 19th-century churches: Grace Episcopal, Mount Carmel and United Methodist in St. Francisville and St. Mary’s Episcopal in Weyanoke; and the Rural Homestead with demonstrations of the rustic skills of daily pioneer life.
Daytime features are open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tours on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday activities are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and include old-time hymn singing at United Methodist Church, the Audubon play in Temple Sinai, graveyard tours at Grace Episcopal cemetery, and a wine and cheese reception at Bishop Jackson Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The reception will include vintage dancers and young ladies modeling detailed 1820s Pilgrimage costumes, which have been nationally recognized for their authenticity, Butler said.
The Saturday soiree, Light Up The Night, is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will feature music and dancing, dinner and drinks.
“The Historic District around Royal Street is filled during the day with costumed children singing and dancing the Maypole, but in the evening, candles flicker and fireflies flit among the ancient moss-draped live oaks. There is no place more inviting for a leisurely stroll,” Butler said.
Tickets can be purchased at the Historical Society Museum on Ferdinand Street. A package including daytime tours and all evening entertainment Friday and Saturday also is available.