‘This is home’
ST. FRANCISVILLE — Anne Strachan Eichin was at a low point in her life on that Sunday morning in September 2005 when she found Nydrie, her raised Creole cottage near St. Francisville.
She and husband Skip were Katrina evacuees staying in a bed-and-breakfast near Pierre Part. She was certain she would never be able to return to New Orleans, where her family lived for generations.
“I told Skip, ‘I’m going to Baton Rouge to buy a condo,’” Anne Eichin said. “I drove up by myself. I said, ‘I am getting out of here today.’”
Along the way, she thought about St. Francisville, where her college friend Beverly Walker lived with her husband, David.
Beverly Walker was attending services at Grace Episcopal Church when Eichin got to St. Francisville, but Walker sent Eichin word through David Walker that she was “in the pew right behind Mary Frances.”
Mary Frances is Mary Frances Smart, a local real estate agent with ties to many of the old families in the area. After services, Smart took Eichin to see three properties.
“You know how they say when you see someone ‘across a crowded room,’ and it’s love at first sight,” Eichin said, “When I came down the driveway, I said, ‘This is it. This is home.’”
Those attending the 14th annual Friends of Magnolia Mound Plantation Petite Antiques Forum will have the opportunity to see, Nydrie, the home that stole Eichin’s heart, as well as Beechwood, Smart’s raised cottage just down the road. Both homes are featured on this year’s tour.
Like the Eichins, Nydrie is not a native of St. Francisville, but, like the Eichins, the old home fits right in. Originally known as the Callihan-Powell House, it was built in the 1850s in Tangipahoa Parish and its legacy includes time as a field hospital during the Civil War. It was moved to its present location in 1997.
According to West Feliciana historian Libby Dart, the home was occupied from 1867 until 1904 by the Callihan family and then was the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Powell, who raised two grandsons there. One was Powell Casey, a lawyer and historian who wrote “Louisiana and the War of 1812.”
The home had been uninhabited for some time when it was discovered by Edward Daniel and his wife, Kellie. They moved the house to a section of The Oaks, Edward Daniel’s parents’ property,
“The Daniels cleared this land and built the road into it,” Eichin said. “The house was cut in half and moved to this site.”
The young couple, who are now divorced, restored the home, which was almost in perfect condition when Eichin first saw it.
“I had nothing to do with it,” she said. “It is all the work of the lovely couple who had wonderful taste.”
The Daniels had worked with designer Patrick Tandy.
“I kept everything Patrick did — the curtains, the colors, everything,” Eichin said.
The lower floor of the home was originally unfinished and used to store wagons and buggies.
During the restoration, it was closed in and is now the family area.
The main floor includes the large center hall with the living room to the left and the dining room to the right. Behind the living room is a guest room. Behind the dining room is a modern kitchen. Across the back of the home is a large guest room, which originally was a porch overlooking the wooded property.
“The view did it for me,” Eichin said. “It is so tranquil.”
Eichin named the home Nydrie for two previous family homes. The first Nydrie is in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and is the seat of Eichin’s mother’s family. The second Nydrie, built by Eichin’s great-great-grandfather in Charlottesville, Va., is no longer standing.
Anne Eichin was eventually able to return to her home in New Orleans, but the Eichins loved St. Francisville so much that they decided to keep both homes.
Nydrie is filled with family furniture, artwork and accessories collected over generations and “stuck away,” Anne Eichin said.
“You know how you save things because some day you might use them,” she said. “Well, this is the house where someday I did.”