Standing inside the historic Lang House in Old Mandeville, Mark and Adele Foster point to a line under the stairs marking the Hurricane Katrina flood line. The house received more than a foot of water.
“Isaac, although just a Category 1, hit Mandeville as bad or worse than Katrina,” Adele Foster said. The city of Mandeville bought the building and moved it just nine months before Hurricane Isaac. “It had a broken sill in front, and a massive live oak down on the west side, and would not have taken another hit.”
Mark Foster was recently voted president of the Old Mandeville Historic Association and looks forward to the future of the city’s historic district.
“In the past many historic houses were torn down,” said Mark Foster, commenting it was time for a change. “The Lang House is a prominent project for the association and a turning point for the future.”
The house was built in 1852 by Belgian tobacco dealer Jean Baptiste Lang and is a good example of an Anglo-Creole Cottage. It now resides at 605 Carroll Street, on property owned by the city of Mandeville with plans to open a museum by late fall, what Adele Foster hopes will possibly be a Christmas grand opening.
There was a soft opening for the home on Mother’s Day for the historic association’s home tour, the biggest fundraiser for the Lang House. Adele Foster was working full days and sometimes more at the Lang House for 15 months. She and her husband have since pulled back to three days a week.
“Mark jumps in on weekends and some evenings but mostly has been the go-to guy for advice and tools,” she said. “This past spring we hired an expert craftsman to do many of the finishing touches, and we’re happy to have someone on board who knows as much, or more than we do about Creole houses.”
Growing up together, the couple has been a team long before they married nearly 39 years ago. And it was another historic home restoration that prompted the move from New Orleans to Mandeville.
“We grew up crawfishing in the same ditches and playing in the same woods in Algiers,” says Adele Foster commenting they moved from their hometown of New Orleans and purchased a 160-year old home on the Mandeville lakefront that was slated for demolition. “It was our eighth home project and Old Mandeville has been a wonderful fit for us.”
Mark Foster is an engineer, and Adele has a degree in history. Both have a passion for restoring homes.
“Mark’s parents lived Uptown, and he was always exposed to old houses,” she said. “His parents bought an 18th century manor home in Scotland, and somewhere along the line he was bitten by the bug.”
Adele Foster explained that historic homes can lose their original heritage over time with multiple renovations, but the Lang House is a perfect example of the “lake houses” along Lake Pontchartrain in the 19th century. Features not often seen include the wine cellar under the house that’s been nicknamed the “cave.”
“This may be the only surviving ‘cave’ in St. Tammany Parish,” she said. They know of only two or three others in New Orleans.
The slate roof, kitchen house and restored wine cellar will be completed in phases.
“Underneath layers of sheet rock and paint was the original faux oak finish,” said Adele Foster, moving her hand over the wood. “It’s a work of art. Usually you see recreations of such things in antebellum homes, but we have the real deal.”
The Lang House also has its original elevation poster, advertising its sale after the Civil War, and a copy hangs inside the house. Another educational feature for those who visit are examples of the home’s original architecture.
“We have exposed scarf joints, mortise and tenon construction and diagonal supports,” she said. “We also have a nice gift shop with lovely antiques, historical maps and artwork for sale.”
Joining Mark Foster as new officers and board of director members are Nancy Clark, vice president; Paula Cannon, secretary; Teresa Meyer, treasurer; and board members Becky Deano and Rebecca Rohrbough, outgoing president. Deano was named chairwoman of the membership committee.
For more information on the Lang House and other projects visit the Old Mandeville Historic Association, visit www.oldmandevillehistoricassociation.org.
Deborah Burst writes about people behind-the-scenes of organizations and events in St. Tammany Parish. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.