Historic Acadian Houses of Southwest Louisiana
By Stephanie M. Chambers
First generation Acadian houses were comprised of two rooms, often built right onto the ground with dirt floors. Experts at building the long-span roof frames, the Acadians used tall peaked or gabled roofs, which allowed water from frequent rain to run off quickly. The color palette of early Cajun homes included bright ochres, mossy greens, brilliant oranges and reds, and slate blues and grays. Note the Acadian-style extended cedar roof on this red barn, which is called a “projecting comb ridge.”
Dallas residential architect, Stephen Chambers, recently traveled to Lafayette in Southwest Louisiana to study the Acadian and Creole architecture of this picturesque region. Vermilionville was the first name given to Lafayette, Louisiana. The French arrived in the Lower Mississippi Valley towards the end of the 17th century and found the watery landscape more hot, humid, and prone to flooding than their European country.
Early Cajun style homes were designed to suit these new conditions. The raised cottages were built of cypress timbers pegged together into rigid frames, placed on above ground piers. The open web of timbers was filled with bousillage, a thick mixture of clay and moss coated with lime plaster (boussillage entre poteaux: infill between the studs). Under pavilion roofs—tent like forms developed in the Caribbean—deep porches surrounded the houses on all four sides, offering a respite from the sun and capturing the cool breezes.
Louisiana architect A. Hays Town (1903-2005) reinterpreted the Acadian home taking the climate of southern Louisiana into account using large roof overhangs, an abundance of breezeways, and cross ventilation to provide air circulation.
Details in photos below that define the style:
Garçonnière: a loft above main house for male children
Homesites at bayou’s edge for firewood, lumber, shade
Combination of Creole and Greek Revival styles
Louisiana law forbade speaking French 1916-1968 (see schoolhouse photos and video)
No glass windows in houses, only shutters
La Galerie: a porch for extra room in good weather
Spanish government gave Acadians woodworking tools (see photos featuring handcrafting tools)
Steeply-pitched hipped roofs and pavilions
Stranger’s Room: a room opening to porch, but not rest of house, for travelers to stay (before commercial lodging)