Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day - St. Francisville, Louisiana, 2014

Blogger's Note: The Woods family traveled to St. Francisville, Louisiana this past weekend to celebrate Mother's Day in the town's Historic District.  The visit included a lovely meal at Magnolia Cafe, and a walk through the traditional Japanese Gardens at Imahara’s Botanical Garden.


From the National Parks Service website:

"The two streets of Royal and Prosperity comprise the heart of the area known as the St. Francisville Historic District. A high concentration of buildings dating from the early 19th century to the early 20th century line these streets, reflecting the history of the region. Such buildings as the 1905 Georgian Revival Courthouse, the c.1810 Greek Revival Camilla Leake Barrow House, and the 1909 brick Romanesque Revival style Bank of Commerce & Trust, are to be found in the heart of the commercial and government center of town.



Extending down Ferdinand and Sewell Streets, the character of the St. Francisville Historic District changes. Here Bungalows, Eastlake or Renaissance Revival houses with pyramid roofs, commercial and public buildings and the later raised cottages are common. The cottages represent perhaps the last generation of a traditional Louisianan house type with Renaissance Revival influence. 



St. Francisville's history is closely related to the town of Bayou Sara, located at the conjunction of Bayou Sara Creek and the Mississippi River. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Bayou Sara grew into one of the most flourishing ports between Natchez and New Orleans. Due to frequent flooding, market places were established up on the bluff, where St. Francisville was eventually built.


From 1825 to 1860 cotton continued to be a dominant commodity and vital to the commercial trade of St. Francisville. Grace Church, within the St. Francisville Historic District, was one of the finest examples of church architecture during of the time. Built in 1858, this church was as much a representation of the plantation owners' wealth as were the area's great plantation homes.


After the Civil War, the number of small merchants rose, and St. Francisville received a number of newcomers, who were largely responsible for the construction of the Julius Freyhan High School in 1907. St. Francisville's ascendancy as a major railroad-shipping center for agricultural produce and cattle produced the turn-of-the-century wealth seen in many of its buildings."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge - Monroe, Louisiana


(Above): A view of the waterlilies along the edges of Black Bayou Lake.
 
From the US Fish and Wildlife Service website:

"The beautiful natural lake is studded with picturesque cypress and tupelo trees, and surrounded by swamps that graduate into bottomland hardwoods and then into upland mixed pine/hardwoods. The refuge supports an excellent fisheries resource and provides valuable habitat for migratory waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, and many resident wildlife species. 



(Above): An emerald green dragonfly perches on a blade of grass at the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe, Louisiana.

This semi-urban refuge is ideally located to provide a place for people to connect with the natural world. It is one of four refuges managed in the North Louisiana Refuges Complex. The complex visitor center, a restored planter's house, is situated on the 40 acre Black Bayou Lake Environmental Education Center. Adjacent to the visitor center are an arboretum with over 100 native Louisiana woody plants and a prairie demonstration area with native grasses and wildflowers. 

 
(Above): There are many cypress trees and native wildlife call Black Bayou Lake home.

Facilities also include interactive visitor center exhibits, a mile long raised asphalt/boardwalk nature trail with 400 foot wildlife pier, boat launch, amphitheater and pavilion, a raised observation deck with spotting scope and several informational kiosks. Members of Friends of Black Bayou, Inc., a refuge support group, provide thousands of hours of services for the refuge." 


(Above): A dragonfly dips in for a drink, rainwater has collected in the base of a lily pad.


Fun Fact: Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1997 through a unique partnership with the city of Monroe, Louisiana. The 2,000 acre scenic lake is owned by the city and serves as its secondary water source. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a free ninety-nine year management lease on the lake. The Service purchased 2,200 acres of land surrounding the lake, which expanded the refuge to 4,200 acres and protected most of the lake's watershed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Petrified Trees Discovered At Hodges Gardens, Louisiana, 1937


(Above): Once of many petrified trees unearthed during the development of the ground for the Hodges Gardens.

From Louisiana Curiosities by Bonnye E. Stuart:

"A visit to Hodges Gardens State Park reveals flowers, shrubs, and trees of all kinds, from flowering dogwoods to petrified trees.  Once part of now-extinct tropical forests and dating from five million to twenty-five million years ago, these fossilized specimens are associated with the Miocene period.  Petrification occurs when a felled tree is preserved from decaying elements when silicon from rich mineral water is deposited in the tree's cells. 


The logs you'll see in this park are not actually logs at all.  All of the trees' organic substance has been replaced with silicon, creating exact silicon copies, or stone molds, of what used to be trees.  Their various colors are the result of contaminants in the quartz as it was deposited.  Hodges Gardens also has its share of wildlife, including wild turkeys and even buffalo."

A beautiful fossilized member of a now extinct tropical forest, petrified logs such as this and smaller pieces of petrified wood are somewhat common throughout the West Louisiana and East Texas region. The varying hues of color in the petrified log are a result of elements that contaminated the quartz as it was being deposited. 


(Above): Petrified trees aren't the only amazing natural feature of the Hodges Garden.
 
Here is a list of some of those contaminating elements and the colors that result when they’re present, some of the listed colors you will see in this petrified log, others you will not: carbon - black, cobalt - green/blue, chromium - green/blue, copper - green/blue, iron oxides - red, brown, and yellow, manganese - pink/orange, and manganese oxides - black.

The Neutral Ground, A Legacy Of The Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana 1806

Blogger's Note:  The phrase 'neutral ground' is as old as New Orleans.  It is as unique to the city as 'gumbo', 'red beans and rice', 'making groceries,' and traditional jazz.  Used to describe the grassy green space between city streets, a common ground for joggers, street cars, and the occasional crowd of Mardi Gras revelers, the term is a familiar one.  But do we know as much about it as we think?  Tracing the origins of this phrase back to the early days of the Louisiana Purchase, we find it had a much different meaning.


(Above):  The City of New Orleans has many green spaces, including the neutral ground area between streets that are lined with Live Oak and palm trees.

From the Texasescapes.com article Neutral Ground Agreement by Archie P. McDonald, PhD:

"The Neutral Ground Agreement was an accord between Spanish General Simon Herrera and American General James Wilkinson regarding the undefined and highly disputed border between their nations and more importantly their overlapping fields of operation.
 

(Above): The Neutral Ground (Strip) as defined in this 1814 map of Louisiana.

The Agreement was, in short, a way for these two generals to avoid a conflict that might have escalated into a war. It was not sanctioned formally by either government, so far as conceding advantage to the other about the eventual location of the actual border. First, last, and always, it was a bargain to prevent fighting by two field commanders. Here¹s how it came about.
 

(Above): A portrait Lieutenant Colonel Zebulon Pike who was sent by General Wade Hampton to Natchitoches with orders to contact the Spanish and form a joint expedition into the Neutral Ground.
 
When Napoleon Bonaparte sold the Louisiana Purchase to the United States in 1803, it came without a definite western border. First claimed by France, surrendered to Spain in 1763, reclaimed by France in 1797, then transferred to the US in 1803, none of the nations involved ever had agreed that the Sabine River was the boundary. America coveted land at least as far west as the Brazos and the Spanish thought their eastern neighbors should not encroach west of the Arroyo Hondo. 



(Above):
Major General James Wilkinson, along with Lieutenant Colonel Simón de Herrera, formulated the temporary compromise know as the "neutral ground agreement" in 1806.

Because Herrera, military commander of Spain's northern provinces, or Wilkinson, the US military commander of the American Southwest, wanted to start a war, they did something sensible: they talked. Herrara came to Nacogdoches and Wilkinson to Natchitoches, frontier towns about ninety miles apart. Their emissaries met in the middle, and, after parleying a while, proposed the Neutral Ground Agreement.

The land between the Sabine River and the Arroyo Hondo, on a line between Nacogdoches and Natchitoches, and north and south of that line, was declared "off limits" to soldiers of either command. The assumption was that if Spanish and US soldiers were not in one another's presence there would be no fighting.


That part worked. But as we know from physics and nature, there is a reaction to ever action. In this case, the Neutral Ground attracted a population that relished not having soldiers, or law enforcement, from either nation to interfere with their fun."

 

(Above): The site of neutral grounds in New Orleans serve a much different purpose today, such as a staging ground for Mardi Gras revelers.

Fun Fact: Following the signing of the Neutral Ground Agreement, some American settlers took Spanish land grants known as the Rio Hondo claims. Others simply squatted on unclaimed land. This lawless area also attracted exiles, deserters, political refugees, fortune hunters, and a variety of criminals. Eventually, the highwaymen organized to the degree that they manned outposts and organized spies in order to better fleece travelers and avoid the American and Spanish military.  In 1810 and again in 1812 the two governments sent joint military expeditions into the area to expel outlaws.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Jackson Square, New Orleans, 1815

Blogger's Note:  Designed as the central landmark from which all New Orleans city streets radiate, Jackson Square is a cultural hub for the city as well.  Renamed to honor the celebrated general of the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson Square is a worthy destination for both visitors and locals alike.

 

(Above): The statue of General Andrew Jackson was placed in 1856 to honor his heroism during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

From the Project For Public Spaces website:


(Above): Taking advantage of many months of beautiful weather, local artists set up to sell their wares along the fence of the Square.

"This lively and heavily trafficked park in the French Quarter is a popular site for artists, street performers and musicians who entertain tourists and locals. This remarkable square at the center of New Orleans' French Quarter is beautifully laid out, with historic buildings on three sides facing out on a lush park full of trees, flowers and pathways. Outside the park, set apart by an elegant fence, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare swings with the activity of musicians, artists, vendors, and street performers.


(Above):  When viewed from this vantage point, the plan of the city built around Jackson Square becomes visible.  (L to R) Seen here behind the Square are the Cabildo, the St. Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytere. 

History
Jackson Square began as the Place d'Armes and was originally laid out by Audrien de Pauger in 1721 as a military parade grounds and site for public hangings. It's situated at the central point of the Vieux Carre (Old Quarter) of New Orleans, and was flanked by a number of important community landmarks, including the St. Louis Cathedral (circa 1794); and the Cabildo (circa 1799), named for the Spanish council (cabildo) that met there; and Presbytere (circa 1797).


(Above):  The Pontalba Apartments, These are matching red-brick one-block-long four‑story buildings built in the 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba.  The upper floors are apartments that are supposedly, the oldest continuously rented such apartments in the United States.

The Baroness Micaela Pontalba is credited with the transformation of the park from military grounds to one of the country's most lovely public spaces. With the completion of her Pontalba Apartments in 1852 along one side of the square - a famed landmark in the district, with iron balconies and other flourishes - she also commissioned fences, gardens and landscaped the grounds in a sun pattern. The square became a meeting ground for up-and coming Creoles and the ground floor apartments were filled with shops and offices.


(Above): A view of Jackson Square from atop the levee along the Mississippi River.

The square was renamed Jackson Square in 1856 to honor Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and later U.S. President. Its centerpiece sculpture is an equestrian statue of Jackson sculpted by Clark Mills."


(Above): The cathedral side of Jackson Square, 1842. Photo credit: Lithograph based on daguerreotype, by Jules Lion.

Fun Fact: Early French colonial New Orleans was originally centered around what was then called the Place d' Armes. After the Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, the Place d' Armes was renamed Jackson Square after the victorious United States general Andrew Jackson.  The square originally overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street, but the view was blocked in the 19th century by the building of taller levees.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'Fest Food - Our Top Ten Eats At Jazz Fest - April/May, 2014

Blogger's Note:  Attending Jazz Fest is a long standing tradition for the Woods family.  We all have our favorites that we go back for year after year.  This is a faithful fan's guide to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 'Must Have Eats.'


(Above): So many choices at the Jazz Fest fair grounds, what is your 'must have' food option?

10. Crawfish Bread:  


Get in line early, as this is a fan favorite!  We encourage the Festival newbie to grab 'one to go, and one to stow,' as these are addictive once you have experienced the gooey, seafood flavors of this 'one-hand' snack.  If you missed the crawfish, the shrimp bread is a close runner up.  Similar flavor to a rich and cheesy Alfredo sauce with a thicker consistency.

9. Jama Jama and Plantains:




For a healthy option, that doesn't skimp on the flavor, grab a Jama Jama plate and make sure to have the Plantains on the side.  Jama Jama is a Jamacian jerk-flavored spinach, and the Plantains are fried crispy and delicious in hot oil.  Your taste buds with thank you for this journey off the beaten path.

8. Softshell Crab Poboy: 


As classic as the shrimp poboy is to Louisiana culture, not much is said of it's long-suffering cousin, the Soft Shell Crab Poboy.  Worthy of eating for shock value alone, the crispy deep-fried legs of this specialty crab are a delicious nosh, add lemon and tarter sauce for the full sensory experience.

7. Pink Lemonade Snoball:


Where the love affair began.  Known for syrupy-sweet flavors cloyingly like melted jolly ranchers, the Pink Lemonade stands above all others as a refreshing supplement on a hot 'Fest day.  It crosses the boundary of kid favorite, well into the zone of festive adult drink quite easily.  And as always, at the 'Fest you got to keep hydrated!  Hydration is key and so are these.

6. BBQ Turkey Wings, Meaty White Beans, and Cole Slaw:


The basis of an honest-to-goodness "hungry man" meal.  Filling and full of great authentic BBQ flavor, an equal opportunity supplier of pleasant feelings post meal.  This plate could single-handedly solve the world's problems if given to key leaders around the globe.  It is that good.

5. Spicy Crawfish Sushi:


Now skeptics will question the validity of having an ultra-perishable food item at an open air concert venue, during the summer, in southern Louisiana.  Don't knock it till you've tried it.  Seriously.  This is actually where the Woods family first discovered sushi.  Also, there are no raw goods used in the preparation.  Delicious, and harmless.  Pro tip: opt for the pre-mixed soy sauce/wasabi combo, makes for better packing.

4. Bun of Vermicelli:


A cooling treat to cleanse the palate, this plate has more to offer than meets the eye.  Tender noodles, well-seasoned shrimp, and a tangy sweet sauce to dip.  You will start looking forward to the respite these plates provide on warmer 'Fest days.

3. Crawfish Sack:


As arbitrary and unappealing as the name may sound, this plate is what the title implies.  Nestled away in a crunchy golden sack of pastry is a delicate gravy of crawfish, bell pepper and other delights that ooze their way around the plate once cut open with your fork.  Are you drooling yet?  You should be.  Comes with a completely decadent lagnappe in the form of a seafood-topped puff pastry and crawfish beignets that share the plate.  Extra yum.

2. Rosemint Iced Tea:


Once you get to the Fairgrounds, you soon realize what a vast and hot the terrain it can be, especially on days with big acts, like Santana this year.  Rosemint tea is a Jazz Fest exclusive, brewed the night before on 'Fest days, with the sole intent and purpose of rescuing the thirsty masses.  Hydration.

1. Mango Freeze: 


An undercover standout, there is a physical transformation that happens once the "Freeze" takes effect.  Many years this humble, unassuming frozen treat of pure mango puree has stood by the wayside, but no longer.  Mango Freeze is a revelation experienced best on a hot balmy day in the middle of  Jazz Fest.


Thank you for visiting our list, please share if you enjoyed it!  Jazz Fest is a special time of the year in Louisiana.  The food is amazing, and to be celebrated. 

Updated: Visit Zemurray Gardens For the Azalea Season - Hammond, La


Azalea flowers, such as the ones above cover the verdant plants in early April to late May.  Truly a lush sight of color to see, and on most stunning display at the Zemurray Gardens near Hammond, Louisiana.


Filled with well-tended natural vistas, the Gardens are a place for beautiful weather and spring flowers.


Fun Fact: In addition to being renowned for its beauty, the Azalea is also highly toxic—it contains andromedotoxins in both its leaves and nectar, including honey from the nectar. The Azalea and Rhododendron were once so infamous for their toxicity that to receive a bouquet of their flowers in a black vase was a well-known death threat.

Update: Zemurray Gardens closed after Katrina, no current plans to re-open. Daily Star article "Gardens fall victim to Katrina" available online:  http://bit.ly/1xcYE3i

This Day in New Orleans History, May 1, 1955

Blogger's Note: May 1st, This Day In New Orleans History, Elvis was in the building.  Getting his start in Shreveport, Louisiana, Elvis returned May 1, 1955 to perform a series of three concerts at the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium.  Cementing his love affair with the 'Big Easy', Elvis would return many times throughout his career to perform and to film one of his popular films "King Creole" set here in New Orleans.


(Above): Elvis Presley appeared at the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium on May 1st, 1955, much to the delight of the larger-than-expected crowds that showed up to see him perform.

1955, On tour with Hank Snow's All Star Jamboree, Elvis Presley played three shows at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sun Records had just released Elvis' fourth single, ‘Baby, Let’s Play House.’ But this was not the first time Elvis and his band visited Louisiana, this is where they got their start on radio. 

From elvispresleymusic.com:


(Above): Elvis' first live performance on the stage of the Louisiana Hayride radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana October 16, 1954. 

"Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. 


(Above): Audio of Elvis Presley's first live performance at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana. 


This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.  After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.


The Hayride was a raucous, enthusiastic crowd, typically the balconies packed to the rafters. There were a number of colleges and universities in the Shreveport area as well as Barksdale Air Force Base. The Hayride drew from this young audience as well as the avid East Texas music scene. Microphones placed in the crowd picked up the Auditorium's excitement for the radio broadcasts. The Hayride impresario, Horace Logan, lent a dramatic touch to proceedings by flamboyantly sporting about the stage in a ten gallon hat with six shooters. The emcee, Ray Bartlett, spiced his act with somersaults and back flips."



(Above): Poster for Elvis' 1958 movie "King Creole," a story about a New Orleans night club singer, filmed and set in the city.
  
Elvis spent a large amount of time in New Orleans on set for his 1958 film "King Creole," seeing the sights and signing autographs for adoring fans in between breaks in filming.



 Elvis' music has an undeniable impact on generations, and the time he spent in New Orleans is an often over-looked portion of his well celebrated life.
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf
Elvis, Scotty and Bill appear for the first time on the Louisiana Hayride, a live Saturday night country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. This time the band was well received. The Hayride had a show every Saturday night, and shows on the third Saturday of each month were broadcast with a 50,000 watt signal that reached up to 28 states.
After only one guest appearance, Presley signed a standard one-year contract to be one of the Hayride's regular members, and he, Scotty, and Bill quit their day jobs.
- See more at: http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/elvis_presley_1953_1955.html#sthash.QccTI3MY.dpuf