Cherokee was in a state of great disrepair when Theodosia Nolan purchased the property in 1972. She set out to restore this low country plantation home so family and other interested people could appreciate and enjoy the beauty and important history of this home. Preserving Cherokee allowed Theodosia to honor the importance of heritage and family; to share her talent and interest in preservation and design; and to use her resources so that others could enjoy the home’s beauty and history.
King Stubbs of Monroe, Louisiana, was the architect on the restoration of Cherokee. His understanding of southern vernacular architecture was key to his selection. Interior Designer Tommy Harris assisted on the project.
Restoration involved careful work while repairing and updating the home. During this time, many details about the house and the history of life on the plantation were uncovered. Important attributes original to the house including hand-blown window panes, wood floors, ceiling beams and faux bois doors were repaired and preserved. Samples of original wall coverings were found when the bousillage walls were stripped for preservation work. Copies of these wall coverings were sourced and used in the restoration.
The detailed work of the restoration required selection of art, furnishings and other wallcoverings appropriate to the period. Today the decorative items provide a strong presence not only because of their beauty and craftsmanship, but also because of their appropriateness to the restoration period of the home.
In the case of Cherokee, preservation involved strengthening and stabilizing the infrastructure that has enabled this historic home to stand for around 200 years. Theodosia’s attentiveness to the infrastructure during the restoration is rarely seen in other historic homes visited today. The roof was replaced with cedar shingles and new wide copper gutters were installed to handle heavy water flow during storms. For the fireplaces in the home, the original brick front was carefully removed so that metal flues could be installed inside the chimneys. New sidewalks were poured at ground level to improve safety, and an elevator was designed and installed to complement the style of Cherokee and improve accessibility.
In 2000, a project was undertaken to stabilize the home’s thirty-six pillars of handmade brick which support the house. The house was carefully raised in sections and each pillar was disassembled, a concrete base with steel rebar was installed, and the bricks replaced. This important project ensuring stability for years in the future. The Cane River National Heritage Area supported this project as part of its work in preserving important historic structures.
With her passion to appropriately restore and preserve Cherokee, Theodosia provided the impetus for future generations of family as well as the community. The acquisition and restoration of Cherokee has contributed to the history and architectural integrity of the Cane River National Heritage Area.