New Iberia, LA Part II: Shadows on the Teche
After we visited the Conrad Rice Mill, we drove a few blocks to an antebellum mansion called Shadows on the Teche. The mansion is located on Bayou Teche (pronounced Tesh). Bayou is a Native American word meaning small river (usually slow flowing), and teche is an Native American word meaning snake. The name doesn't come from the fact the bayou has snakes in it, although it probably does, but from the way it twists and turns.
Bayou Teshe starts from a point west of Baton Rouge and winds its way south where it joins the Atchafalaya River at a point just west of where we were staying in Berwick. Bayou Tesh was once the main channel of the Mississippi River a few thousand years ago until silting caused the river to change its course.
Shadows on the Teche was built between 1831 and 1834 by wealthy sugar grower David Weeks. The Weeks' sugarcane plantation was on Grand Côte Island (now called Weeks Island), but the site of the plantation was considered too remote for the family. Therefore, Weeks bought a 158-acre tract of land on the banks of Bayou Teche in New Town, which is now known as New Iberia, where he built the home that became known as Shadows on the Teche. The house is built of brick in the Classical Revival style. It has 8 columns across the front.
As the house was being completed, David Weeks went on a trip to New England to find a cure for a recurring, unknown illness. He died while on that trip shortly after his wife Mary and their 6 children had moved into the new house.
After her husband's death, Mary was responsible for the daily management of both the family's sugar plantation and of the Shadows, and for raising her children. In 1841, Mary married a Louisiana lawyer by the name of John Moore. Although Mary kept her inherited properties legally separate, John frequently provided advice to her on business matters.
During the Civil War, Mary Weeks Moore was confined to the second floor of the Shadows while Union troops occupied the first floor and the grounds. Mary died in her sleep in 1863 in her second-floor bedroom. Out of respect for their former host, not only did they bury Mary on the property, but the Union troops did not burn the home when they left.
Tours at Shadows on the Teche are offered on the hour. We arrived after the hour, but the lady who was to be our guide graciously offered to take us on a tour anyway even though we were a little late and even though there were just the two of us.
The Shadows remained in the same family all the way until 1958 when it became part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This home became an extraordinary gem when it was discovered that the family never threw anything away. Consequently, original furniture, china, and even clothing and letters are all there. Unfortunately, we can't show you the inside because photography wasn't permitted, but the photo below shows some of numerous trunks and boxes that were found in the attic after the National Trust took possession.
The painting shown below of one of the daughters was hanging in a bedroom. Margery was particularly intrigued that the dress the little girl is wearing in the picture was found In the attic in perfect condition. The dress was displayed on the bed.
In 1919, William Weeks Hall, great-grandson of David and Mary Weeks, bought out his aunt's share of the house to become sole owner. William Hall restored the home in the 1920s and lived there until his death in 1958. It was William Weeks Hall who worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation so the home could be bequeathed to them upon his death.
There is a beautiful view from the second-floor porch of Bayou Teche (the olive green patch toward the right) through the moss-draped live oaks.
Our tour guide offered to take our picture with the Spanish moss and the bayou in the background.
After our tour of the house, we strolled the grounds and headed down toward the bayou. As we looked back up the bank, a gnarled, old oak provided a nice frame for the view of the back of the house.
The bayou was running a little high, but there is no danger of flooding at this time.
Earlier, when our guide found out we wrote a travel blog, she asked us to spread the word that this area of Louisiana is not flooded and that they are open for business. Her request was echoed by so many business people that we ran across that depend on tourists. Not to minimize the plight of those who have been or will be flooded along the Mississippi River or in the Atchafalaya Basin; but the news media tends to sensationalize the news so much one might think the entire South is under water. We have been trying all week to take a Cajun swamp tour, but the tour needs at least 8 people to make the trip economically feasible. Every time they get several reservations, someone calls to cancel and they have to call off the trip.
After we finished up at Shadows on the Teche, we drove a few blocks to Duffy's Diner, which Margery found online while doing research. Since it was well after noon by the time we visited Conrad Rice Mill and Shadows on the Teche, and since it was about a 45-minute drive back to the motor home, we decided to go there for a late lunch. Duffy's got some pretty high reviews for their po' boys, their burgers, and their fried chicken.
Duffy's Diner has a 1950s look with Coca Cola memorabilia, a checkerboard floor, and pictures of Elvis and James Dean on the walls. Rock 'n' roll oldies played in the background.
We decided to try another po' boy - this time fried shrimp. They assured us we wouldn't be disappointed, and we weren't. In the next photo, Margery is saying, "Now, this is a po' boy."
This is more what we expected when we got burned when we splurged on the grilled shrimp po' boys at Mahoney's back in New Orleans. The po' boys at Duffy's were supposed to be 6 inches for a half, but they were closer to 8 inches long. The bread was much wider than at Mahoney's, and the shrimp were falling off the bread.
Like Mahoney's, these shrimp were fresh and delish. Unlike Mahoney's where half a po' boy was $15, the po' boys at Duffy's were $4.60 for a half and $7.95 for a whole. Since the price was so reasonable and since we didn't get enough to eat at Mahoney's, we ordered one and a half po' boys and a side of sweet potato fries to split. Boy, were we stuffed when we left!
Duffy's also specializes in old fashioned soda fountain favorites; and they had chocolate sodas, which are Margery's favorite. Unfortunately, we were way too full to even think about dessert, so we had to pass.
We have more Cajun Country sightseeing to report on, so look for our next post.