Cajun Louisiana Home Style: Guest Houses
Above photo by Stephanie Chambers.
The literary images we have of the garçonnière is as a romantic bachelor’s apartment, but in truth they were a necessary and practical part of French Acadian architecture. Upper floor sleeping quarters arranged as a dormitory allowed for the separation of male children, to give the female children privacy, and far enough away so as to not shock their sisters by their behavior. It also provided a “stranger’s room” that had ingress and egress to the porch, but not rest of house, for travelers to stay before there’s was abundant commercial lodging. And lastly, it could be a safe room in the event of storms or northern snowmelts that produced flooding from rivers and bayous, that had overflowed their banks. Evidence of the presence of a garçonnière is the outside stair (left in this photo) that leads from the front or back porch to an “attic.”
Families who owned enough land and could afford plantation homes built a detached apartment for the male children, or placed them in the upper room of the game bird houses. Pigeonniers denoted wealth among the rural French Creole, as in France where only landowners had the right to keep pigeons. We imagine that these ‘bachelor apartments’ were warm in the summer, but cozy in the winter.