Hugging Bayou Grosse Tete and Bayou Maringouin in Point Coupee Parish, Valverda Plantation is a historic architectural treasure with an interesting past. The stately mansion was built in 1842 and owned by Henry Johnson, the fifth governor of Louisiana, from 1855 until the time of his death in 1864. In 1863, during Gov. Johnson’s tenure in the house, Union soldiers camped on the edge of the plantation. “We have cannonballs, buttons from Union soldiers’ uniforms and musket bullets that were found on the plantation,” says Dr. Hosea Doucet III, a pediatrician, who purchased the property in 2004 along with Dr. Mark M. Cassidy, a cardiologist. (Both are on the faculty of Tulane University School of Medicine.) “Gov. Johnson served Louisiana from 1824 until 1828, and he is buried on the property.” Johnson also served in the U.S. Senate from 1818 to 1824 and 1844 to 1849 and the U.S. Congress from 1834 to 1839.
“We love the history of the plantation,” Cassidy adds. Rob Mann, regional archeologist with the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, did excavations on the property shortly before they purchased it and
found a treasure trove of historical items, including Indian arrowheads and tools. The latest find on the property was a 1763 silver Spanish coin.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Valverda today encompasses 45 acres dotted with live oaks and magnolia trees and a plethora of camellias, azaleas and gardenias. “The house is solid brick with
16-inch-thick walls,” Cassidy says. “The Greek Revival style is unique for Pointe Coupee Parish where
French Creole architecture is more the norm.”
The 5,000-square-foot house, with another 2,000 feet of porches, has been completely restored and renovated. “The serious work began shortly after we purchased the property with the restoration of the exterior masonry and foundation, as well as fixing the chimneys and parapet,” Doucet says.
Restoration architect Wayne Coco, AIA, of Coco and Co. in Simmesport supervised this part of the project, with the actual work done by Thomas & Parker Waterproofing in Shreveport. “It was no small task, and it took a full year to complete the first phase of the work,” he says.
The renovation of the interior was done under the watchful eye of architect John F. Wettermark of Wettermark + Keiffer Architects LLC in New Orleans. “It was a challenge to respect the history and relative simplicity of the house, with its four-room center-hall plan, while at the same time providing the modern conveniences that the original house did not have,” Wettermark says. The end result was a handsome traditional kitchen with all- modern conveniences, a master bathroom that is definitely state-of-the-art and additional bathrooms both upstairs and downstairs. New Orleans designer Julie Simpson collaborated with the owners and Wettermark in selecting colors throughout the house.
Chris Morrison, a personal friend of the buyers and a local landscape architect in New Roads, acted as general contractor and put together a group of local master craftsmen who did the interior work.
To take advantage of the fertile land surrounding the mansion, the owners planted a grove of 200 pecan trees a few years ago.
“We expect to have our first crop of pecans in about three years,” Doucet says proudly.
“Today we have a historic treasure with a modern kitchen and bathrooms that make living very pleasant at Valverda,” Cassidy says.
“It’s a great house with an interesting sense of history,” Doucet adds. “We originally loved the setting of the mature landscape. We both agree that after spending our careers in New Orleans and enjoying all it has to offer, having another place in the country is wonderful. We enjoy the great people in the area and the proximity to New Roads
and Baton Rouge.”