LAFAYETTE — If it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes one to maintain the Alexandre Mouton House — and a fleet of florists to decorate for the holidays.
Jean Mouton, the founder of Lafayette, built the house in 1824. For almost 200 years, the structure has stood in the heart of the city as testament to the determination and tenacity of Cajun culture.
“We strive to make it period, but it’s left up to the florists to select their materials,” said Louise Ganucheau, president of Les Vingt Quatres, the organization that owns and maintains the historic landmark. “Those are the parameters we give them. It’s not always exact, but no glitter or anything not normally reflected in a status home of that time.”
Also known as the Lafayette Museum, the home was the holiday decorating task of Kim Veillon of It’s a Wrap, Alfred Boudreaux of Fabian’s for Flowers, Ted Viator & Associates and Theresa Guidry and Mark Blanc. JoLynn Cole is in charge of the florists.
“Traditionally, area florists each take a room and donate,” said Cole. “It’s a good opportunity for them and us, and we shoot for mid-1850s. This year, because of the decorations, we have a lot more event rentals.”
Mitch Reed, of The Gardenaire, took on the challenge of the exterior.
“We go traditional, all green garland and red velvet bows,” Reed said. “It’s a natural, antebellum Christmas look. No lights. Modern decorating is so elaborate. This is so much simpler.”
Reed goes for period style but concedes to the ease and consistency of today’s materials. The size of the task, the duration and the vagaries of Louisiana weather preclude doing otherwise. The Gardenaire has decorated the Mouton House gratis for 25 years and says it takes 200 yards of garland, 350 yards of red velvet ribbon and about six hours to get the job done.
Veillon and his firm are new to the task and will go for pure authenticity. His mission is the dining room, where Veillon will do a mix of cedar, pine, pyracantha berries, cranberries, fresh satsumas and magnolias on the chandelier, tables and sideboard.
“I’m bringing it all back to the period, no designer showcase,” he said. “I’m not overdoing it, nothing modern.”
Since the purchase of the Alexander Mouton House in 1954, the Lafayette Museum Association (formerly Les Vingt Quatres) has been dependent on community support to preserve the residence. It’s a complicated, collaborative effort to sustain against the elements a centuries-old wood structure, from whose cupola legend has it the original owners could see the Indians trading on the Vermilion River.