“What a sweet, sweet house,” was my first thought, as I drove up to the cottage at 4317 Lenora St. in Metairie.
Then: What is that in its yard?
I was completely stunned by what I later found out is a 300-year oak tree.
This magnificent oak has an adjacent lot all to itself and extends its branches to shade and protect its surroundings like a beloved big brother.
“This was like a park, and I used to play in that tree when I was growing up,” said Ronnie Bonnette, who met me under the oak, while babysitting for granddaughter Sophia Freaner, “and all the kids in the neighborhood would climb up into the tree house.”
Bonnette grew up in the house and has plenty of fond memories of his childhood here.
“This was my mom and dad’s house and they built it in 1953,” he remembered. “There were three brothers-in-law and they were all carpenters, so they built a house for each other. It’s well-constructed and sturdy because of that.”
Sadly, his parents have passed on, but the house, happily, in on the market for another owner to cherish and enjoy as Bonnette has.
As we walk inside, it’s easy to imagine plenty of visitors to the cottage. The living room is still completely furnished and has hardwood floors under its carpeting. It opens into an extra-large kitchen with plenty of cabinets.
“My mother cooked for everybody,” said Bonnette, adding that his French mother was a country girl from Marksville, “and we could fit most of the neighborhood right in this kitchen for supper.”
Bonnette is still very much at home in the kitchen of his boyhood. He holds a smiling Sophia as he remembers the room full of talking, laughing and eating. It’s easy to picture different age groups sitting around the table telling the same old stories over and over while filling their wine glasses over and over – just like a lot of French families still do today.
Two bedrooms and a bath are off of a hallway, making for complete privacy, even when the public rooms are full of people.
Just off the kitchen and down a couple of steps is a good-sized welcoming family room. Large, comfortable couches conjure up memories of neighborhood kids sprawling on the floor after supper for an evening of television watching.
Just off the den sits the washer and dryer – which are conveniently located inside, even though there is a utility room outside.
This Metairie neighborhood has undergone quite a few changes in the last couple of years – all of them for the better. Although Lenora Street is a quiet and peaceful winding road, some may be concerned because it’s just a couple of blocks from Airline Highway.
“But Airline Highway has been cleaned up immeasurable,” said listing agent Carolyn Talbert, with Keller Williams Realty. “All those sleazy motels are long, long gone and it’s a nice shopping district now.”
This makes for a perfect place to live: A quiet residential street with nice neighbors, yet close to necessary and convenient shopping.
…And then, of course, there’s that magnificent oak tree. However, although the 300-year old oak is huge, it doesn’t take up the entire lot.
“We had a trailer in front of this tree for many, many years,” said Bonnette, “and some of my relatives lived here.”
And of course, his mother cooked for them too in her nice, large kitchen.
“Since this neighborhood is zoned R2,” added Talbert, “you could build a double or a camelback on this lot.”
The house has a double garage and a utility shed plus storage for a boat – all shaded by the oak, naturally. One big plus in our city: This house sits on a ridge and has never flooded.
“I had such a wonderful childhood here,” said Bonnette, “that I just want to pass it on to someone who will love it and enjoy it like I did.”
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