Architecture for Kids

French Colonial


French colonial houses in America are located in Louisiana. Urban dwellings can be found in New Orleans while rural ones range from New Orleans along the Mississippi for about 120 miles.

Their distinquishing characteristics are that they are usually one story will many narrow door and window openings with paired French doors and paired casement windows, stepped pitched roofs, either hipped or gabled, and walls of stucco over a have timbered frame.

There are two traditions: urban and rural.

There remain in New Orleans many French urban cottages which lack porches and are built directly up to the sidewalk. These have side gabled or hipped roofs and flared eaves that overhang the front facade.

The old city of New Orleans was virtually destroyed by fires in 1788 and 1791. As the city was rebuilt, the preference was for multi-storied buildings in which shops and commerce were placed on ground level with residential housing above. These buildings retained the French doors and the flavor of the homes that preceeded them. Each French door had a small balcony  made od delicate wrought iron. As wrought iron technology developed in teh mid 1800s most of these balconies were replaced with elaborate porches which is what we view in New Orleans today.
 
The French rural houses have extensive porches supported by slender wooden columns under the main roof line. The roofs are steeply pitched, usually pitched roofs. The houses are usually raised on high (often one story high) masonry foundations. The porch above is supported by massive masonry columns.

English houses are usually directed inward. They usually have few external entrances. There are internal halls and staircases to reach the various rooms. This is not true of French houses where all rooms have doors with access to the outdoor ground level or porches and stairways are outside.
 

 
Acadian House was built in about 1765 by Chevalier M. D'Auterive on property he received from a Spanish land grant. It is near St. Martinville.
 
This house was built by Edward Douglas White, one of the earliest settlers in Lafourche Parish, in 1890. He became governor of Louisiana and was later a U.S. Congressman.
 
Parlange is an exquisite example of Louisiana planation houses. It was built in the early 1750's by a French nobelman, Marquis Vincent de Ternant. Indigo was the first crop of the planation, but sugarcane soon became the successful crop as at most other South Louisiana farms.
Parlange is built of brick on the first level and cypress, plaster and mud on the second. Brick pillars support the balconies surrounding the house and matching cypress colonettes support the hipped roof.
 
 
This is one of two octagonal pigeonniers that stand near the house on each side in the tradition of Northern France. 

Pigeonniers were the source of squab for the table.

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The photos above are credited as follow:
New Orleans: Patricia M. Shillingburg
Plantations Homes are from photographs by Dick Dietrich in Lousiana's Plantation Homes, The Grace and the Grandeur, published by Voyager Press, 1991
The Pigeonier is a photograph by Alex McLean, from Great American Houses and their Archtectural Styles, by Virginia and Lee McAlester, 1994