Updated: Aug 19
Old House in Old Natchitoches as photographed by Marion Wolcott
In 1940, photographer Marion Wolcott of the Works Progress Administration visited Natchitoches, Louisiana along the Cane River. Her photographs helped to spur federal interest in the Creole people of French, Spanish and African heritage along the river, which eventually culminated into the Cane River National Heritage Area.
Wolcott's eye sought places that looked old, colonial, or unique inside and around "the oldest town in Louisiana," as she described Natchitoches, and three of her photographs captured this house at "120 Washington Street." The address was recorded by the Historic American Building Survey Program. Described as "the balcony house," it looked as if plucked from New Orleans with its brick construction, high windows, multiple chimneys, and wrought iron decoration. On some of the photos, a sign can be read: "Room & Board."
Being the nosy person I am, I wanted to see if this place was still extant, so I typed in "120 Washington Street" in Google Maps. That address doesn't exist anymore. I looked for Natchitoches City Directories but there aren't any online (I think). Luckily, the Library of Congress is a benevolent entity. I searched the address on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps between 1892 to 1922 and discovered that the house stood between Lafayette and Pavie Streets on the west side of Washington Street (which turns into Front Street south of Lafayette).
In 1892, the house had six chimneys with a detached, bricked kitchen that sported three chimneys. By 1899, the house functioned as the U.S. Land Office but the detached kitchen building had disappeared - this is an interesting discovery as the U.S. Land Office had the task of distributing public and abandoned lands. By 1904, this building was subdivided into three separate units that housed businesses; then, by 1909, these units had become "Dwellings." By 1922, it was simply listed as a home.
Today, the parking lot for a bank occupies the structure's location. No offense to the bank, but darnit, I prefer the old rather than the new.
Wolcott's discerning eye was correct; this was an old house, but HOW old is still unclear to me.