Escape to Christmas Past with trip to Franklin

If Christmas Present is stressing you out, think Christmas Past.

Steeped in history, the Grevemberg House Museum in Franklin is one of many possible day-trip options to escape to over the holidays.

Get a quick history lesson from tour guide Craig Landry, who’ll explain that the historic home, located in Franklin’s City Park, was once owned by Frances Wykoff Grevemberg, who settled in Franklin with her several children after her husband, Gabriel Grevemberg, died in the 1856 hurricane on Last Island, also in St. Mary Parish. Gabriel Grevemberg’s father, Charles, owned Albania Plantation in Jeanerette.

“The Grevemberg family gave us (the St. Mary Landmarks Society) all their papers, and it tracks a French family from the time they arrived when we were Atakapan (an indigenous people of the southeastern woodlands). We even have letters through the Civil War, in French, so it’s a prize,” local historian Pam Heffner said.

Among the Grevemberg papers was the land grant for Albania Plantation. Last year, the Landmarks Society, which operates the museum, sold the first 15 pages of the land grant to the Daughters of the American Revolution, which has the papers on display in the Louisiana Room of its national museum in Washington, D.C. The $15,000 from the sale went to the Landmark Society’s general fund to finance Grevemberg House and other historical projects.

“When I saw the signatures of the Colonial governors, it actually brought tears to my eyes,” Heffner said. “You know, the wax stamps, the fancy signatures, it’s just an impressive sight.”

The Society retained an electronic version of the grant pages.

Another fundraising outlet for the Landmarks Society is its annual dinner fundraiser at which 10 people pay to dine in the Grevemberg House.

“This year, we wanted to kick it up a notch, and find some Grevembergs to play the parts of their ancestors,” Heffner said. “We found out about Col. (Francis C.) Grevemberg, and his son (Carroll S. Gervemberg) played his father.”

Francis Grevemberg, as superintendent of the State Police, had a big impact on gambling in Louisiana in the 1950s, leading many a raid at known gaming spots.

“So we had unsuspecting people in the parlor with ‘Mrs. Grevemberg’ having a drink and, bump, bump, bump, and here he opens up the door and says ‘This is a raid!’ and he was portraying his father. He had a state trooper badge, and a Baldwin policeman agreed to put the handcuffs on (guest) Susan Guidry. ‘Y’all are busted, I see the cards, I see the dice,’” Heffner said.

“They got more than just a dinner. They got some history.”

The Grevemberg House Museum, 407 Sterling Road (La. 322), Franklin, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day. Admission is $10, adults; $8, seniors and students through high school; $5 children, 12 and younger.

For more information, call (337) 828-2092 or go to grevemberghouse.com

Celebration in Chalmette

Chalmette Battlefield’s living history volunteers will host a yuletide celebration 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at the historic Malus-Beauregard House.

The house is located at Chalmette Battlefield, site of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and one of six areas of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, 8606 W. St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call (504) 281-0510 or go to nps.gov/jela.

For the program, the 1833 house will be furnished and decorated as it might have been by the families who lived there in the 1800s. Living history experts in period clothing will portray family members, discussing their plans for the holidays and telling stories about their lives. Visitors can make old-fashioned decorations for the house Christmas tree and for their own homes.

As part of the battlefield’s high school JROTC living history program, during the event cadets and other living history reenactors will present “Christmas as War,” portraying troops from the American army who fought at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The troops will be camped outside the house, much as they camped in the area during December 1814-1815, when British troops threatened the city of New Orleans.

For more information, go to nps.gov.

Santa visiting penguins

Santa Claus is hand delivering presents to the penguins chicks at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans during the 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. feedings at the Penguin Exhibit Dec. 12-13 and 19-20. This is the third year Audubon Aquarium has organized this special holiday event and the penguins are anxiously awaiting Ole St. Nick!

Visitors can view the festive feeding behind the viewing glass at the exhibit on the second floor of the Aquarium.

Visitors can also bring their families to the Aquarium at 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, and join Santa for Breakfast with the Penguins.

This fee-based program includes a buffet breakfast, an informative talk on penguins by an Aquarium staff member, a fun craft, admission to the Aquarium immediately following the program, and an appearance by Santa Claus. Breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. and the program concludes at 10 a.m.

The National Park Service and the Audubon Institute provided information for this column. Louisiana Travels is a column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to travel@theadvocate.com or jbergeron@theadvocate.com or mail to Judy Bergeron, The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810.