James Carstarphen built this house for his family in 1869.
James Carstarphen married Belina Jackson in 1854 and they had six children together. The home was built on land that Belina had been given by her father, Julius C. Jackson.
An article in the Louisiana Press Journal announced that construction of the house had been finished on August 28, 1869.
” Fine Residence- Nothing helps to give attraction and prominence to a town or city more than fine and elegant residences. Elegant residences with handsome surroundings give any town in which they are located, an air of refinement and comfort, inviting to those of cultivated tastes. While our city has a larger number of substantial, comfortable dwellings, than most any other we have visited of the same size, yet there are very few of what may be termed fine houses. We recently alluded to the new palatial dwelling erected by Mr. J. E. Carstarphen, on Georgia street, just within the city limits. Tuesday evening, in company with Mr. T.C. Kelsey, under whose supervision the house was built, and who was the contractor for the woodwork of the building, we took a look at it, and without any intention of puffing anybody, we are free to say that the work will compare with that of any of the finest buildings in our large cities. The size of the main building is 52 x 38 feet, two stories high with a tower projection in the front three stories high, 12 feet square. A double piazza extends round the tower. The style of the building is that of an Italian villa. The entrance is by a flight of steps to the piazza, and then through a door into the tower, and thence though a door into a hall 12 feet wide extending the whole length of the main building. On one side of the hall is a double parlor 20 x 38 feet, divided with a double ellipsis. On the other side is a sitting and a dining room , separated by large folding doors finished in rosewood. The second story of the main building is divided into four magnificent chambers. These are furnished with grates with beautiful enameled slate mantels , all of a different style and color. Each room is provided with registers, by which they can be warmed from a furnace in the cellar. The whole house is provided with gas fixtures and all the modern improvements. Attached to the rear of the main building is a kitchen, washroom, pantry, store room, china closet, servants room, bath room, bedrooms for children, and almost innumerable closets. The bath room is provided with facilities for cold, warm or shower baths.
The kitchen has a large range, upon which is a boiler capable of holding a large amount of hot water, which, by pipes, can be taken to almost any part of the building. On each side of the rear of the building are two large cisterns, with pipes leading to pumps inside the house. Connected with the building are drain pipes leading to a large cess pool about 20 feet from the house. There are, besides the pantries, closets and store room, 14 rooms in the house, all finished in the best style.
The cost of the entire building, will be about $18,000, and will be equal in every particular to any we have examined in St. Louis and other cities, costing from $25,000 to $30,000. Mr. T.C. Kelsey, who superintended the entire construction, says it has been put up at a remarkably small cost, and lacks in nothing but being equal to the best. Most of the work has been done by our home mechanics and speaks well for their proficiency. The brick work was put up by Wm. English, Esq., and speaks for itself. The woodwork was put in by Mr. Kelsey’s foreman, Mr. F. Kemp, and is a superb job. The stairway is an extra piece of architecture. It has a mahogany railing. The main post is finished with panels of bird’s eye maple. The plastering, by Rowley & Ross, is a good job. Messrs. M Graham & Co., are doing the painting, and it speaks for itself; the graining, oiling and rosewood imitations cannot be excelled by the best artists.
The whole house does credit to the liberality of the owner, and the faithfulness and the proficiency of all engaged in its construction. We hope Mr. Carstarphen’s example may be followed by other of our citizens who are able to afford the out lay. The house is being furnished in a style in keeping with its cost and finish. ” 1
Tragedy struck the Carstarphen family on September 20, 1875 when the house caught fire in the middle of the night. The blaze had grown and the family noticed it at about 4 A.M. The origin of the fire is still a complete mystery. Concerned neighbors gathered around the home and began to help remove the expensive furniture so that it would not burn with the house. They removed the piano, the dressers, beds, paintings, stoves, doors, windows, and marble mantels. Even though they were able to save most of the furniture, many of their household goods were left. Clothing, fabrics, silver, and china were lost to the fire. The alarm at the Louisiana Steam Fire Engine Company was not sounded until more than a half hour had passed since the fire had been discovered. They were not quick to act either. Many citizens of Louisiana were very upset with the fire department. It was not all the fault of the firemen, the cisterns nearby did not have enough water and were located too close to the flames to connect to one of the fire engines. Luckily, the fire spread through the house quite slowly in the beginning. After the doors and windows were removed, the fire began to burn more intensely. It burnt up all the woodwork in the rooms it reached. “When day broke nothing remained standing but the gloomy and smoke-stained walls, with numerous unsightly piles of smoldering debris beneath.” 2
1. Louisiana Press Journal. 1869. “Fine Residence.” August 28.
2. Louisiana Press Journal. 1875. ” The Flames.” September 24.