The Ramsey-Dees-Alexander House c. 1894
|Left to right: Glenn and Debbie Alexander, Ann Caston|
William T. Ramsey, of the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company, built this lovely southern beauty for Nathaniel and Susan Pope in 1894. Mr. Pope was an official with the Longbell Lumber Company, so wood was used extensively in the construction and adornment of the home.
The home is a blend of typical southern plantation and Victorian styles. The rear addition, built by the Pope’s, gave the footprint an asymmetrical configuration. Further eclecticism is noted in the gambrel roof, under which laid a third story ballroom, built for the Pope’s daughter Elizabeth.
In 1923, T. A. Dees bought the home for the sum of $14,300. Mrs. Dees, or Miss Annabel as she was known to most, affectionately named the residence “Magnolia Knoll.” Like the proverbial steel magnolias of the south, the home suffered through some rough periods, but persevered. During the depression, Miss Annabel sold her famous Orange Pecans through the New Yorker magazine to help save her home. In later years she went on to teach etiquette lessons, bridge, and sewing classes to young children in the community. SLIDE 14 The east and west gables are adorned with shingles, a typical Victorian element. The entablature remains simple and unadorned, except for the tri-brackets at each freestanding and attached column. The photo to the right shows the original brick pedestals built to support the wooden columns, lifting them above the ground and porch floor.
The woodwork used for the second story porch ceiling was made on the job with dimension lumber and stock molding components. Miss Annabel, a cultural leader in growing Lake Charles, entertained at the home extensively. During the war years she had open house for coffee for the officers of the adjacent military force every other Sunday. Why, Colonel Eisenhower (who was at Fort Polk at the time) visited in her home practically every other Sunday morning!
When the Alexander’s purchased the home from First United Methodist Church in 1976, it was slated for demolition. The interior had been stripped of some – or most – of the fixtures and architectural features. Remnants of the turned balusters, scroll grillwork, darkened wood paneled walls, leaded transom windows and applied ceiling beams could be seen, but the home was not the essence of glory it had been when Miss Annabel, Mrs. Rosa Hart, and other prominent Lake Charles women organized Little Theatre in the home’s drawing room in 1926. Once purchased, the home was dismantled (board by board), moved, and reconstructed (board by board), in the Cameron Parish community of Big Lake. This process took 7 years, but in 1983, the process was complete. And to bring it full circle, in 2001 the Alexander’s hosted the 75th anniversary of Little Theatre in Miss Annabel’s home once again!
Thirty-nine years later, the home stands proudly among a large grove of centurion live oak trees, most of which are older than the home. Twenty five of the oaks are registered with the Live Oak society, including one especially beautiful tree named the Miss Annabel Oak.
Glenn and Deborah Alexander are to be commended for their labor of love intensive preservation and restoration of this grand old home.