Professor Vickie Parrish lead our cohort around the grounds of the six acre site. We visited the “big house” as well as most of the structures.

Dr. Parrish explained that the family sold the plantation to an oil and gas company, and the APHN was formed to save the structure from being demolished. They were able to get the oil company to donate the house and the six acres surrounding it.  It is unclear what  overall resources the AHPN has to maintain the site.

Our class took a private tour “off hours.” Most of my classmates seemed impressed. I was interested in the association of the place with the lives of Cammie Henry and Clementine Hunter. And I enjoyed the flora, especially the large oaks with resurrection ferns. Of course, the site has other positive attributes: it is visually impressive, visitors can get to the site easily from I-49, it includes a variety of structures from different periods so the site can be interpreted to include much of the Parish’s history, the layers of stories keep visitors with short attention spans focused, and the site is accessible.

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Students in my cohort voiced concern regarding the care of plywood paintings of Clementine Hunter upstairs in Africa House. Clear architectural and historical interpretation would help give visitors a sense of the depth of the site. My biggest question revolved around the possibility of moving the Kate Chopin outbuildings to this site and using the bricks and other remnants as architectural salvage for Melrose. I know owners have to consider all options, but would hate to see Melrose become a Creole plantation home with a “petting zoo” of vernacular outbuildings from assorted sites throughout Natchitoches Parish.

I am not much on “plantation tours”.  Despite that, I would visit Melrose again.