Steamboat House - Emmer-Hughes House, New Iberia Louisiana

Date added: July 07, 2024 Categories:

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The Steamboat House ranks, as the noted restoration architect Samuel Wilson states, "as the largest and most elaborate late Victorian house in New Iberia and its vicinity." The round turret appears in a number of turn-of-the-century houses in Louisiana but it is rare that it has two. Moreover, the galleries as restored will be among the most extensive and elaborate examples of the use of Eastlake vocabulary in the state.

The home was built for John Emmer and his son-in-law George Lebau. Emmer was the well-to-do businessman and farmer, and owner of a brickyard and of a fairly large amount of local real estate. He also drilled the first two oil wells in Iberia Parish, although they were unsuccessful. The bricks from the Emmer brickyard were used in the construction of many buildings in and around New Iberia. George Lebau, who along with his wife owned the home during 1903-1912 and 1914-1937, was a prominent local businessman who served as president and chairman of the board of New Iberia National Bank.

The home's political significance arises from its association with two of its owners, the builder John Emmer, who was mayor of New Iberia from 1889-1891, and Dr. Paul N. Cyr (1878-1946), a significant figure in state politics during the Huey Long era. According to Cyr's children, he spent much time at the Steamboat House during the years he owned it, although it was not his primary residence. Cyr ran for lieutenant-governor on Long's ticket in 1928 and was elected. But a feud soon developed between the two, beginning in 1929 when Long refused to recommend that the sentence of a Dr. Dreher be commuted from death to life imprisonment. Cyr from then on was "a dangerous enemy" to Long, obstructing his legislative program in his capacity as presiding officer of the senate, for example. Cyr was a major reason why Huey continued on as governor after winning election to the U. S. Senate in 1930. Had he resigned, Cyr would have had fourteen months on his own as governor. "Paul Cyr will never be governor of this state for one minute" became one of Long's favorite sayings. Cyr mounted a campaign for governor in 1932 but soon withdrew to support another candidate. Also in 1932, he tried to force Huey out of office with a lawsuit but was unsuccessful.

Building Description

The Steamboat House stands on 2.7 acres of bayou ridge land set between East Main Street and Bayou Teche in the old residential section of New Iberia.

Originally the house was a one-story, central hall plan, raised house, with a massive two-story, double turreted front. The front was only one room deep, and was completely encompassed by Eastlake galleries on both stories. Galleries were reached by means of large floor-length slip-head windows.

In 1948 the second floor gallery was removed as were the coupled turned columns, spindle valences, jig-saw brackets, and railings with turned balusters. These were replaced by tall slender round wood columns extending through two stories.

Instead of the second-floor gallery, a balcony with a wrought iron railing was constructed across the center of the second-floor facade between the two towers.

In addition, the galleries on the sides and rear of the house were enclosed to form bathrooms and other living spaces. The original one-story portion of the house behind the two-story brick, towered front, was raised to a full two stories, and a new hipped roof with dormers and a balustraded captain's walk was added.

Finally, the base level of the house, which once consisted of brick piers with lattice work between, was enclosed with brick veneer, the steps were replaced, and the bell-shaped roofs of the turrets were replaced with lower conical roofs. Several closets were also installed and a staircase was built at the rear of the central hall. However, the millwork was in keeping with the original.

Although the house was extensively remodeled in the 1940s, its unique brick facade with twin circular towers is essentially intact and it is the intention of the present owner to restore the altered galleries to their original form and detail. When this restoration is completed, the view of the house from the street will appear almost the same as it did in the early photographs, as it is also proposed to reconstruct the interesting wood picket fence and recessed entrance gate and gate posts.

The interiors are large and imposing with fifteen-foot ceilings and cove moldings. The mantels are all in the late nineteenth-century Renaissance Revival style. The one in the right front parlor is particularly significant, being marbleized slate with glass inlay, circular pattern panels, and consoles.

The house shares the 2.7 acres with a small summer house, a tennis court, and a small cemetery.

Both the tennis court and the modern cottage are small, low in stature, and set off to the side.

Steamboat House - Emmer-Hughes House, New Iberia Louisiana  (1979)

Steamboat House - Emmer-Hughes House, New Iberia Louisiana  (1979)

Steamboat House - Emmer-Hughes House, New Iberia Louisiana  (1979)