St. Martin de Porres Chapel Yucca House (Melrose Plantation) Natchitoches Parish, LA July 2014
Since moving to central Louisiana in late winter, I’ve made several visits to Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches Parish. While the interpretive tours at this site leave much to be desired and often take on the romanticized sentiments of life in the good ole’ Gone With the Wind, smiling, sleepy, south (with blood on its mouth), I have an appreciation for the real history of the site and some of the individuals related to it (i.e. folk artist Clementine Hunter – who, unfortunately some of the tour guides refer to as a primitive artist).
My most recent visit to the plantation was during one of the sites’ off days for a meeting. I got an opportunity to walk around with its facility manager and a few preservation colleagues. I was able to view, for the first time, a small chapel attached to the rear of Yucca House, one of the housing structures on the plantation complex. For some reason the small, modest chapel with its stark white-washed walls and pews, and statue of a humble St. Martin de Porres has captured my heart. I find it kind of like a “safe mental place” within the complex. I don’t know if my fondness is because it’s a sacred space or perhaps because it’s one of the few areas within the complex that cannot fall victim to misinterpretation. But, I love this little chapel - it is what it is…clearly and frankly. You cannot misconstrue its history or deny its purpose.