Preserve Louisiana partnered with author and host of Meanwhile...Back at Café Du Monde Peggy Sweeney McDonald for the launch of the organization's first Cultural & Architectural Tour. The group explored historical and cultural sites in Natchez, Mississippi the weekend of February 27 - 29th.
Attendees loaded the bus with their luggage and snacks as they prepared for a weekend long Mississippi adventure. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with smiles and sweet tea at the Carriage House of Stanton Hall.
Everyone gathered around the table and shared introductions, while waiting on their southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy and fresh garden salad.
Eugene Leblanc, a newlywed and tour guest, also expressed his interest in preserving an old church in St. Gabriel.The delicious lunch was then washed down with chocolate cake.
After lunch, the group toured Stanton Hall, a palatial Greek revival style home that was purchased and restored by the Pilgrimage Garden Club in 1938. The ceilings were high; the mirrors were large, and the décor was colorful.
Frederick Stanton was an Irish immigrant and cotton merchant who constructed the block long home in the 1850s, which was formerly known as Belfast. Unfortunately, Stanton did not live through the completion of the home. Belfast then became Stanton College for Young Ladies.
Stanton Hall's docent created a mental time machine with his chronicles of the lives lived in the home and the funny stories behind the beautiful mirrors, couches and beds on display that read, "do not touch". In the dining room, an average rectangular table replaced a 24-seater circular table. The docent explained that while giving a tour, a carpenter stared at the cupboard like a hawk on his prey. The man then analyzed the cabinets and drawers and realized he owned the original table of the home. Stanton Hall is currently exploring how to acquire the newly discovered piece to bring it home where it belongs.
Later that evening, the guests visited the Charboneau Rum Distillery. Doug and Jean-Luc Charboneau, owners of the distillery, shared their journey of why they decided to produce rum and how it's made in downtown Natchez. The barrels filled with rum, the copper still, and gigantic sack of sugar created the visual for Jean-Luc's road-to-rum adventure. He then passed out medicine-cap size taste cups of rum and guests raised their cups. "Here, here".
The group then joined Doug for a Charboneau Cocktail next-door at the historic King's Tavern, built in 1769. Attendees filled the room while glasses clinked together. Doug also shared ghost stories of the tavern for entertainment.
The hospitality of the Charboneau's continued and the guests journeyed to Twin Oaks, Regina Charboneau's, (mother of Jean-Luc and wife of Doug), antebellum home for dinner.
The Charboneau home was beautifully restored and smelled like Thanksgiving. Family pictures, team trophies and a chair with a permanent dent from her youngest son decorated the house. Regina welcomed the guest and created a buffet with shrimp and grits, warm butter biscuits, succulent brisket, fresh asparagus, poached pears and much more.
While the guests admired and enjoyed their meals, they were introduced to Darby Short of Darby's Famous Fudge. Her colorful language created a picture of her road to redemption success. Darby expanded on her dedication to historic preservation in downtown Natchez explaining that she "has a passion for buildings, a vision before a purpose."
The next morning, attendees grabbed their coats and headed to Rosalie Plantation for a tour. The burnt orange two-story, pipe-less home was completed in 1823. Peter Little purchased land at the age of 17 to build his home, where he and his wife Eliza lived.
The couple did not have children, but Rosalie was a home for many orphans. The children's room was innocent and decorated with pure white blankets and nightgowns.
The walking tour built an appetite and guests chowed down at the Pig Out Inn Barbecue. Pulled pork and chicken sandwiches oozed with spicy barbecue sauce and sides coupled the meal to perfection.
Guests smiled and licked the bones and their fingers clean, then gathered to continue a tour of Natchez.
The Natchez Pilgrimage tour guide, Carole LeMay, delighted everyone with stories of "the barber" of Natchez and black free man, William Johnson, the damaged Arlington Plantation and the holy St. Mary's Basilica.
To end the night and the trip, tour guests ate dinner at the Dunleith Plantation and participated in Sweeney McDonald's Meanwhile...Back at Cafe' Du Monde life stories about food show. Sweeney enchanted the audience with her witty personality and story about a wine-filled pie eating Thanksgiving, her friend experienced.
She kept the room entertained and involved by asking, "If you were a food, what would you be and why?"
Preserve Louisiana's Executive Director, Fairleigh Cook Jackson, considered herself a hotdog and charmed everyone with food stories about her three chickens she raises for her son who would previously only eat eggs.
Country Roads magazine publisher, James Fox Smith, told a story about an Australian spread he enjoyed for years. He explained that most people are not fans and gave a peek inside his Australian culture by providing Vegemite and a saltine cracker for them to decide.
Other foodies include Mark Brockway, well-known Natchez barkeep Bryan Price, Regina Charboneau, Jeff Kleinpeter, Myles Sweeney and Lynn Beach Smith. Lynn also wowed the guests by singing Sara Lee by Fred Ebb.
The trip reached its final destination in Natchez, MS. Sweeney and Jackson thanked the guests for coming and was gracious for the partnership of Preserve Louisiana.
Some notes from our guests:
"After the first day and dinner at Twin Oaks, we felt we had received our money's worth. The team that put this together was awesome!" - Chris and Patrick Bella
"This trip was perfect. Dining at Regina Charboneau's was an incredible experience! I felt like we were in a Southern Living Magazine" - Debra Minkus
"This tour was one of the best I have ever experienced. Best food experience ever!" - Dorothy Novak
"Being a history buff, I enjoyed the very comprehensive tour guides stories about the homes we visited." - Gene and Ollie Leblanc