MARKSVILLE'S OLDEST HOME

Hypolite Bordelon House is one of the oldest homes in Avoyelles Parish. This reminder of both a simpler and harder time in the parish’s history is an important link to the history of this parish and its people. After being closed for a few years, the small museum will be reopened on May 1. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Hypolite Bordelon House to reopen May 1

Cooperative effort of City of Marksville, Chamber of Commerce & Project Ayuda

It’s been said you can’t throw a rock in Avoyelles Parish without hitting a Bordelon. If you’re not a Bordelon, you probably have cousins -- or in-laws -- who are.

The home of the first Avoyelles Parish Bordelons will soon be welcoming visitors again as one of Marksville’s most popular tourist stops.

Hypolite Bordelon House, on Tunica Drive, was closed two years ago when the City of Marksville de-funded it as part of cost-cutting measures during a budget crisis.

At its April 11 meeting, the City Council agreed to a three-party partnership aimed at reopening and staffing the 200-year-old Creole pioneer cabin.

The city owns Hypolite House -- sometimes called “Hippy House” -- but it once served as the Marksville Chamber of Commerce’s HQ for tourism.

REOPEN MAY 1

The Chamber will reopen the museum part-time on May 1, museum director Clyde Neck -- a descendant of Hypolite Bordelon -- told the council.

The Chamber found a willing partner in Project Ayuda in Cottonport, which operates the senior citizen work program formerly run by Greenthumb. Ayuda is the Spanish word for “Help.”

Project Ayuda Coordinator Stephanie Gauthier said her organization will provide two employees to staff and run Hypolite Bordelon House.

Project Ayuda will pay the salaries of the employees out of the Senior Community Services Employment Program grant it receives from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Both of the men we will place there speak both French and English,” Gauthier said. “They will handle the tours and minor inside maintenance. The most important thing, though, is to have the house open for visitors once again.”

Gauthier said the senior work program is designed to be a work training program for eligible individuals over the age of 55. The workers are placed in non-profit or public service community agencies where they receive on-the-job training for 20 hours per week. They earn at least minimum wage.

During their temporary employment, they work with the program director to locate permanent employment.

“The program is designed for low-income senior citizens who want to develop skills they need to get a job,” Gauthier said. “We are always looking for people who want to participate in the program. For information, they can call me at 318-876-2424.

THREE PARTNERS

Operating the historic site will be a team effort among the three partners and not a solo performance by Project Ayuda.

The city will continue to handle grounds maintenance and, as the property owner, pay for any repairs that may be needed.

Chamber President Van Roy said the Chamber can share some operating costs, such as utility bills, with the city.

“The Chamber is 100 percent behind the reopening of Hypolite Bordelon House,” Roy said.

Avoyelles Tourism Commission Chairman Carlos Mayeux told the council the house is “an outstanding gem” and it is important that it be properly maintained, preserved and staffed with employees who can explain its history to visitors.

There will be a small admission cost which has not been determined.

There will be a ribbon-cutting and reception, with refreshments, to mark the “grand re-opening” at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 3, Roy said.

The event will be sponsored by the Tourism Commission, Chamber of Commerce and City of Marksville.

Although the house is officially listed as having been constructed around 1820, more recent research indicates it could have been built 30 years earlier by another Bordelon, Valerie Bordelon -- Hypolite’s father.

Valerie Bordelon moved to Avoyelles from Pointe Coupee Parish around 1790. He was the grandson of Laurent Bordelon, who lived in New Orleans in 1730 and is believed to be the progenitor of the state’s Bordelons.

The home -- whether the 1790 structure built by Valerie or one built later by Hypolite -- was originally located about five miles north of Marksville in the Blue Town area on La. Hwy 1192. It was occupied as a home until about 1941, when Pierre Bordelon died.

Neck spearheaded the effort to move the house to Marksville to be preserved as a museum.

The Creole-style house was donated as a museum in 1978, moved to Marksville in 1979 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Five pieces of furniture on display at the house -- a dining table, two chairs, a mortar & pestle and an open-side child’s crib -- were featured in the book Furnishing Louisiana -- Creole & Acadian Furniture, 1735-1835.

ABOUT THE NAME

The pronunciation of the first name of the home’s namesake is almost as diverse as the heritage of the parish.

For non-Gallic Avoyelleans, it is “HIP-po-lite.” Those with some knowledge of French may say “Hip-po-LEET.” If French is more familiar, they may say “Ee-po-LEET.”

Nameberry.com, an online name pronunciation guide, says the name is pronounced “Ee-po-LET” in France.

That website also says the name “is not uncommon in France, but has barely set foot on American soil and is unlikely to do so.”

It comes from a Greek legend and means, “He who frees horses.”

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