A Place Called Perique
This River Road Creole home is a gem among the mansions.
Michael Hopping has a special appreciation for his historic Creole raised home that hugs the Mississippi River in Paulina, a quaint community in St. James Parish just 8 miles upriver from San Francisco Plantation. Hopping’s home isn’t a huge mansion in the genre of some of the other plantations that front the Mississippi. Yet it boasts just as much history and importance as its grand sisters.
“I fell in love with this house the first time I saw it,” says the landscape designer, who is well-known as a historical authority on the gardens of Louisiana. “I could tell it was a fine authentic structure. Even the enormous hand-hewn blocks of cypress supporting the house were intriguing to me. After years of searching for just the right historic house to purchase, I knew this was the one.”
Located in a pastoral setting of 6 acres, the home was built some time between 1835 and 1840. Florian and Julie Brignac purchased it in 1863 at a sheriff’s sale. Here the couple raised 15 children and operated a successful plantation. Only a few other owners surface in the history of the property.
“Although it was always a small operation compared to the grand River Road plantations, it’s every bit as much a plantation as the big ones,” Hopping explains. “Over the years sugar cane, cotton and perique tobacco were grown here. There was even a sugar mill on the property for over 100 years, and records show that it also had its own cotton gin.
“I found the property just before Hurricane Katrina and signed a purchase agreement two weeks before the destructive hurricane hit. The sale was delayed because the owner’s home in New Orleans had major damage from Katrina and the family moved to Paulina until they found another house to purchase 15 months later. I had to wait until November 2006 to actually go to the act of sale.”
Once Hopping owned the property, he decided to rename it Perique after the tobacco crop that had thrived on the land. “Locals called the property ‘Little Texas’ because it was said that a Texas regiment camped there during the Civil War,” he says. “The name was local lore that I was never able to substantiate, so I took the liberty of giving it a new name.”
It has taken six years for Hopping to completely restore the house and furnish it in keeping with the period. “I love the simplicity of this house,” he says earnestly, “and I wanted to take my time and do everything just right.”
Today Perique is a showplace on the historic River Road. “I have no regrets about purchasing this house,” Hopping says. “I still marvel at the fine bones of the building. It is solid to the core, and while the renovation was a great undertaking, it is definitely the house I always wanted to own.”
Standing on the levee separating the property from the Mississippi River, Perique presents a perfect picture of the past. Cows graze in the pasture beyond the historic house, further adding to the picture-perfect pastoral setting. “There’s a special serenity here that I enjoy,” Hopping says. “The only excitement around here is when we build bonfires on the levee to celebrate Christmas.” And he hastens to add: “Come back in a few years, and I will finally have my garden in place. I know it is strange for a landscape designer to only have a sweeping lawn, but I am not in a hurry to do a garden, and when I do, it will be something simple and in keeping with the serene setting. There isn’t any need to be in a hurry here. Life is easy. The birds sing, the camellia bushes bloom, and I sit in a rocking chair on the porch with a cup of coffee and marvel at my good fortune to own Perique.”
For tours or functions at Perique, call (225) 802-2141.