La Maison: Tower on the Teche

Rediscovering a neoclassical-meets-midcentury family home on the banks of the bayou

When architect Herman Gesser, Jr. began designing a home for Edward T. Weeks, III and his nature-loving family of five in 1971, he had one directive.

“All they said was they wanted something different,” says Gesser.

More than 45 years later, the white, castle-like facade still stands apart from any home in New Iberia’s established Duperier Oaks neighborhood.

Nestled amid ancient oaks and cypress trees, the meticulously-crafted structure rises above the meandering Bayou Teche like an architectural relic. No Acadian columns to see here.

“It was probably one of the most advanced houses of its time in the area,” says Gesser.

The home, which now belongs to Margaret and Jeff Simon, recently opened its doors to the public as part of the New Iberia Modern Home Tour organized by the Louisiana Architecture Foundation, Iberia Cultural Resources Association and Iberia Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau. (Note: Be sure to read Margaret Simon’s essay in “Lettres D’Amour”.) According to the Daily Iberian, the house, received with fresh eyes, became a “fan favorite,” awing guests with its skylight-capped spiral staircase, original slate floors and intricate brickwork.

The Simons, who describe the house as having “strong opinions,” have embraced the character of the space, maintaining and restoring its modernist bones over time.

Central to the home’s aesthetic is its location on the Bayou Teche. Two-story picture windows in the living room showcase the natural beauty of the property, which flows through each room in the house. Gesser says the Weeks family built the home with both formal and informal entertaining in mind. It’s easy to see how the midcentury ethos paved the way for the type of open floor plan so common in contemporary design.

“It was the beginning of the open floor plan,” explains Gesser. “It’s not as open as we see today. You didn’t open the kitchen into the den, that was a no-no.”

For the Simons, who have hosted everything from family weddings to artists-in-residence, hospitality remains ingrained in the spirit of the house. However, Margaret Simon says the home’s greatest gift is the everyday magic of experiencing the natural world through her kitchen window or back deck. “It’s the best view ever.”