Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunnybrook

In the mid-1880's, a plantation-style home was built on "Military Road" (La. Hwy. 21) about four miles north of Covington. It was called "Sunnybrook," and its classic representation of  plantation style architecture earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. 


According to the National Register application written in 1978, some 40 years ago, despite its architectural modifications over the years, Sunnybrook "retains the form and most of the other characteristics of a Louisiana raised plantation house. It is one of only about two or three examples of raised plantation houses in the Covington area. 

"In addition, its plantation-like setting amid a grove of ancient live oaks is unrivaled in the vicinity. Given the late date of its construction (between 1877 and 1885), it represents the last generation of raised plantation houses before the Queen Anne Revival swept all before it. Sunnybrook is a good representative of rural Louisiana architectural history because it shows the strength of the state's raised cottage tradition, an eighteenth century form, which continued to be built almost unchanged well into the late nineteenth century.

 
"The builder of the house was apparently a German immigrant named Fritz Buchin. In 1877 he purchased 150 acres of land, including the site of the house, from David Warrell in return for a consideration of $200. Buchin had arrived in America about fifteen years before and had gained U. S. citizenship in 1868. Application for citizenship by Fritz Buchin dated October 10, 1868, was filed in St. Tammany Parish Courthouse.


"In 1885, Buchin sold a hundred acres of this tract (including the house site) to Mrs. Catherine Jones of New Orleans for $900. Since the selling price of the land had risen from about $1.34 per acre when Buchin bought it in 1877 to $9.00 per acre when he sold it in 1885, it is logical to assume that he built the house sometime during the period of his-ownership. 


"Such a conclusion is also consistent with the architecture of the houseCensus records from 1880 reveal something about Buchin and his farm. In 1880, Fritz Buchin was listed as a 45-year-old "farmer" who had been born in "Meclinberg." His wife Caroline, aged 23, and their two young daughters resided with him. According to the agriculture census of 1880, Buchin owned 140 acres of land, of which ten acres were tilled and 130 acres were woodland. 

"During the previous year, his farm had produced 200 bushels of corn, 200 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 20 bushels of Irish potatoes. Buchin also owned $300 worth of livestock, including two horses, one mule, six oxen, one cow, 20 swine, 25 poultry, and, most important, 200 sheep. During the previous year 150 lambs had been "dropped" and 200 fleeces had been shorn, which weighed a total of 300 pounds. The estimated value of all of Buchin's farm production for the previous year was $150.



"Mrs.  Jones,  the  woman to  whom Buchin  sold  Sunnybrook  in  1885,  did  not  own the  property  long,  for  in  1886  it.was  auctioned  at  a  sheriff's  sale  to  Frank Columbus.  In  1892  Columbus  sold  the  property  to  William  H.  O'Beirne,  who held it well into the twentieth century. 

 Sunnybrook is set on 18 acres of flat ground, amid a grove of large live oaks, six of which are registered with the Live Oak Society. Several of the oaks are on the order of 300 years old. The present 18 acres provides a plantation-like setting from which the property derives much of its character.


 
"The house itself is a raised plantation house, with a central hall plan both upstairs and down. Both the upper rooms and the upper hall are 14 ft. wide and both have 12 ft. ceilings. "Originally the ground floor consisted of frame partitions set between brick piers which, supported the main floor. The present partitions and exterior walls are of brick. The only change in plan on the ground floor has been the creation of one large room on the south side where originally there were two. 


"A chimney has been added on the south wall to provide for a fireplace in this larger room. The original chimney still provides for fireplaces in both the upper and lower halls. Originally there was a full front and rear gallery both upstairs and down. These galleries all remain with the exception of the upper rear gallery which has been enclosed to accommodate two bedrooms and a bathroom. This rear gallery enclosure cannot be regarded as a significant loss of integrity because a great many plantation homes have lost their back galleries to room expansion. Also, the enclosure cannot be seen from the main facade.

"Sunnybrook is a raised plantation house, five bays wide, with thin spindle- like columns in the upstairs gallery and heavy brick pillars in the lower gallery. At one time there were small brackets on the upper gallery columns, but these have been removed. However, the original Renaissance Revival upper gallery front door and lower gallery rear door remain, as do the upper gallery 6 over 9 front windows, whose sashes recede into the upper wall, and the gallery columns and ballustrades.


"Covington is an area which developed largely as a result of the lumber industry in the early twentieth century. Because there is very little in Covington that predates the year 1900, any substantial building that does so should be considered locally significant. Sunnybrook is a substantial structure that considerably predates the year 1900. As such it represents, as few extant buildings do, the early history of the area. Secondly, it represents an old Louisiana architectural form which is locally rare."