BREC’s Magnolia Mound Plantation and the Friends of Magnolia Mound are proud to announce the construction of a new visitor’s center. The visitor’s center will serve to welcome guests to the property and house the Magnolia Mound museum shop. It will also feature a mini-theatre for an introductory film to the facility and a large meeting room for receptions, exhibits about the history of Magnolia Mound and special traveling exhibits. The facility will also house new bathroom and storage facilities. A new visitor’s center is important to this venerable landmark to educate the public on the restoration of the plantation and its outstanding collections. This new facility will help keep Magnolia Mound Plantation a vital part of the community. According to John Sykes, Magnolia Mound executive director, “the new visitor’s center will bring a new experience and the best of amenities to the visitors of Magnolia Mound Plantation.”
As a new facility, the visitor’s center will be the first building designed specifically for Magnolia Mound Plantation and will be the first new building constructed on the property since BREC built the Barn Pavilion in 2001. It will not be a renovation of an existing building. The new building will be adjacent to the Hart House, in the space now occupied by the 1904 Carriage House, which construction staff will remove from the property. The staff will save the structural parts of the Carriage House, such as the large Cyprus beams, to use in the future repairs of the remaining Magnolia Mound structures. The new facility will replace the Berwick House, a retrofitted former house that Magnolia Mound Plantation currently utilizes as its visitor’s center. After the construction of the new visitor’s center, Magnolia Mound Plantation will utilize the Berwick House as an education center.
The new building will feature many modern, unique construction details such as glass walls and an eco-friendly “green” grass roof. Trahan Architects designed the new building to disappear into the landscape. Construction teams will build three sides of the building into the mound so the new visitor’s center will not be visible from the historic house yard. The new facility is approximately 4,200 square feet and sited partially below grade on the edge of the mound to reduce the impact of the glass and concrete structure on the historic Magnolia Mound site.
Construction teams will construct all of the above ground walls using a special channel glass. The building will also have “green” roof, which is a vegetative area on the roof. Both of these features will reduce the visibility of the visitor’s center from the historic main house. BREC and the Friends of Magnolia Mound Plantation are committed to making this a first-class facility while still preserving the historic integrity of the property. “The new visitor’s center utilizes the most modern design elements while being minimally intrusive to the overall experience of Magnolia Mound Plantation,” said Sykes.
The construction of the new facility will also be an exciting process for the staff of Magnolia Mound. During this process, the plantation staff will excavate the property surrounding the new visitor’s center. They hope to find unique artifacts and pottery. Dr. Rob Mann will lead the excavation and survey process. Dr. Mann is an assistant professor at Louisiana State University in the department of geography and anthropology and also serves on the Friends of Magnolia Mound board of directors.
In an effort to secure funding for this amazing new facility, the BREC Foundation worked with Sue Turner and her family, who made the initial donation for this project. Mrs. Turner is a long-time Friends of Magnolia Mound board member. Her initial donations and passion for the historic preservation of the property helped save Magnolia Mound Plantation in 1966. The family of Sue Turner donated $750,000 to the construction of this new state-of-the-art facility that BREC will eventually name after Mrs. Turner. The budget for the construction of the building is $1.5 million. As a new aspect of the donor agreement, BREC will use 5% of the money raised through this effort to set up an endowment fund for the benefit of Magnolia Mound.
With all of the new amenities that it will offer, the new visitor’s center at BREC’s Magnolia Mound Plantation is sure to make a great addition to the facility and its historic education programs. It will help the staff better facilitate the plantation’s mission to illustrate and interpret the lifestyle of the French Creoles who formed the fascinating culture that still influences and pervades life in southern Louisiana.
by Chad Brewer
Greenscapes, Summer 2012