Army Corps of Engineers, Chamber Pot, Chimney, Christmas, Cistern, Edgard, Fassine, Great Flood of 1927, Kerosene Lamps, Kismet Plantation, Levee, Louisiana, Mississippi River, Moving a house, Plantation, Plaster, River Road
My last two blog posts (here and here) featured a portion of Anthony Tassin’s (a distant relation of mine) personal recollection of Kismet Plantation. Mr. Tassin had quite a few recollections of the old Creole-style plantation, so I have broken them up into sections to share with you. Here’s another snapshot of Kismet:
The house has two chimneys. The East chimney serves two fireplaces, while the West serves three. In the 1930s, for some reason or other, fire was built only in the dining room fireplace and in the master bedroom, but not in the others. I believe the explanation is simply one of economy. The family spent the day hours either in the dining room or in the master bedroom. On occasion, as when a party was in progress or during the Christmas holidays, a fire would be built in the parlor.
The fuel was coal. Probably the fireplaces were originally open-hearthed and remade with grates when coal became available for fuel.
A cistern on either side to the rear of the house supplied running water derived from the watershed of the roof. Indoor plumbing provided only cold water; there was no hot water heater until the late thirties. An outdoor privy was in use until the late thirties; chamber pots were used at night.
Electricity did not come to Edgard until about 1930. Kerosene served for light until then.
The Highwater of 1927 & Subsequent Reconstruction of
the Levees: Moving the House Back
In 1927 the Mississippi River crested to within a few feet of the levee tops in Edgard, probably the closest threat to a flood in the 1900s. I recall the fassines, the wooden structures built behind the levee near the top to prevent the waves from passing vessels to wash away (or over) the levees.
Within two years the U.S. Corps of Engineers began a massive project of moving sections of the levee back about 100 to 200 yards — the actual distance can be verified on site.
This move has a significant bearing on Kismet. On two scores. Because E.J. Caire did not own the land directly behind the big house more than 100′, it was necessary to move it onto an adjacent cultivated field owned by Caire. To move so large a structure, it was necessary to employ a 2-step strategy: move the house forward, closer to the River Road, then angle it back on a gradual angle into the designated field.
Architecturally significant is the fact that such a huge structure could stand moving without suffering more than superficial damage, some crumbling of plaster walls inside, but only a minor amount. Only patches were required when the house rested on its new site.
Check back in on Friday for the final installment of the Kismet series, detailing the ownership and occupancy of the plantation…