Follow the Natchitoches Film Trail

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FOLLOW THE NATCHITOCHES FILM TRAIL
Louisiana’s Oldest City Celebrates 30 Years of Steel Magnolias & More!

A Love Your Parks Tour Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid

 

This episode of Big Blend Radio focuses on the new Natchitoches Film Trail and Steel Magnolias Film Trail, along with 93rd Annual Christmas Festival of Lights.

Natchitoches made history as becoming Louisiana’s first settlement when it was founded by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis back in 1714.

Natchitoches made history again when the 1989 movie “Steel Magnolias” was filmed in and around the city. The story comes from Robert Harling who grew up in Natchitoches and lost his sister to diabetes in 1985. He turned that experience into the iconic stage play “Steel Magnolias,”  which was then adapted into the famous film directed by Herbert Ross, starring A-list actors Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, and Daryl Hannah.

On Nov. 7-10, 2019 Natchitoches will roll out the red carpet for the Blush & Bashful Weekend of special events celebrating the 30th Anniversary of “Steel Magnolias.” Along with an Easter Egg Hunt, Armadillo Cake Contest, screenings of the movie and panel discussions, one of the key events is the unveiling of the new Natchitoches Film Trail. This brand new trail incorporates the already established Steel Magnolias Tour of Filming Sites, as well as locations featured in other movies filmed in Natchitoches such as “The Horse Soldiers” starring John Wayne (1959), “The Man in the Moon” starring Reese Witherspoon (1991), “The Year Without a Santa Claus” starring John Goodman (2006), “The Garden Club” based on the book by former Natchitoches Mayor Robert “Bobby” DeBlieux (2008), “For Sale By Owner” starring Kris Kristofferson (2009), and most recently, the 2016 artist documentary “Clementine Hunter’s World.”

We went to some of the Natchitoches film locations when we visited the area back in 2014 and then added more to our list this summer. With the sites being part of the Cane River National Heritage Area and on the Cane River National Heritage Trail, the Natchitoches Film Trail is a fantastic way to explore the region and experience this original French Colony’s vibrant blend of French, Spanish, African, Native American and Creole cultures.


The Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District spans a 33-city block area of century-old buildings built in Queen Anne, Italianate, Spanish Revival, Federal, Art Deco, Victorian and French Creole architectural styles. One of the best ways to experience this historic district and to get a good understanding of the area’s rich history, is on one of the Cane River National Heritage Area’s free guided walking tours. A stroll along the brick-paved Front Street offers beautiful views of Cane River Lake, a variety of restaurants, galleries, and shops including the Kaffee-Frederick General Mercantile which is the oldest general store in the state. The street was featured in “The Year Without a Santa Claus” and is home to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum where you can view artwork displays portrayed in the documentary “Clementine Hunter’s World.”

City Park and the Tante Huppé House in the National Historic Landmark District were the settings for the film “The Garden Club.” Along with some private homes, the District was also the setting for quite a view scenes in “Steel Magnolias.” The centerpiece of the film was the Eatenton home, which is now the Steel Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast. The Easter egg hunt took place at the Beau Jardin Water Park & Garden on the downtown riverbank. The post-game interviews were held at the Northwestern State University Field House. Truvy’s church was the Trinity Episcopal Church which dates back to pre-Civil War days and was the first non-Catholic church in Natchitoches and the third Episcopal church in Louisiana. Shelby’s funeral was in the American Cemetery which established around 1737, is said to be the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase and where the town founder St. Denis may be buried. There’s also the tranquil Susan Harling Robinson Memorial Park to visit.

From “Steel Magnolias” to “12 Years a Slave”, “Blaze” and “The Horse Soldiers”, Steve Schneickert recalls the Hollywood History of classic movies filmed in central and northwestern Louisiana, on Big Blend Radio


Head out along the Cane River National Heritage Trail, a Louisiana Scenic Byway, to St. Augustine Catholic Church & Cemetery. Founded in 1803, St. Augustine is America’s first Roman Catholic Church created by and for the people of color in Louisiana, and the second oldest. It was the first traditional cultural property to be added to the National Register of Historic Places in Louisiana. The church was the film location for Shelby’s wedding, and the cemetery is the final resting place of folk artist Clementine Hunter.

Built in 1796, Melrose Plantation is a National Historic Landmark that shares the story of slave Marie Thérèse Coincoin and her ten Franco-African children with Thomas Pierre Metoyer, as well as the Isle Brevelle Creole community, the Civil War, plantation history, and Louisiana folk art. After 1884, under the ownership of John Hampton Henry and Miss Cammie Garrett Henry, Melrose Plantation became a haven for writers and artists, including famous folk artist Clementine Hunter, who was once a field hand and cook at the plantation. Melrose Plantation is featured in the award-winning short documentary “Clementine Hunter’s World.”

Established on November 2, 1994, Cane River Creole National Historical Park includes Oakland Plantation, and just a few miles down the road, the Magnolia Plantation. The most intact examples we have in the USA, these two French Creole cotton plantations are both National Historic Landmarks. The 65 historic structures and over a million artifacts in this park have survived for 7-8 generations through good times, poverty, and war, and tell the stories of the plantation agriculture through the perspective of the landowners, enslaved workers, overseers, skilled workers, and tenant farmers who resided along the Cane River for over two hundred years. Oakland Plantation, a National Bicentennial Farm, was featured in “The Horse Soldiers,” a fact-based story about a Union mission to destroy a railroad junction deep within Confederate territory. The Magnolia Plantation Complex was featured in the horror film “For Sale By Owner.”

The majority of “The Man in the Moon” was filmed in nearby Robeline and Many, in Sabine Parish.

Get the full list of film sites and download the Natchitoches Film Trail and Steel Magnolias Tour of Film Sites brochures at https://natchitoches.com/natchitoches-film-trail.

 

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