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Thursday, May 25, 2017
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The LeBlanc home was landmarked in 2002 by the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

The LeBlanc home was landmarked in 2002 by the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society. (Rita LeBleu / American Press)

What makes a house a home? The people, says LeBlanc family

Last Modified: Monday, March 20, 2017 12:27 PM

By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Some people spend a great deal of time planning for every detail of their lives, including where to live and when to live there. But for many people, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

The timing of unplanned events may even work in our favor on occasion. That’s the case with the historical Ford Street house the LeBlanc family calls home.

Joshuah and Courtney Eustis LeBlanc thought their third child, another boy, would be the final addition to the family. It wasn’t. When they found out one more was on the way, the house in which they were living didn’t seem large enough. They began to work on a plan to add room.

About the same time, Joshuah’s mother was preparing to move from the historical James McCain house on Ford Street and asked her son if he was interested in purchasing it.

The house had plenty of room for the LeBlanc “caboose.”

“I had given up on having a little girl,” Courtney said.

The house was built in 1902 for Captain James and Constance Fitzenreiter McCain.

House’s original owner captained Borealis Rex

Information about James McCain is from the online Genealogy Report: Descendants of Johannis Goos.

“McCain was born Sept. 17, 1863, at Franklinton, in Washington parish. In 1879 he came to Lake Charles to go into the lumber business, which he followed until 1908, when he and his brother, A. B. McCain, purchased the steamer Rex and engaged in the steamboat business.”

According to an online article by the late W.T. Block, “the ‘Rex’ made three round trips weekly to Cameron, leaving Lake Charles early on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays under Capt. McCain.”

The steamer sunk during the Hurricane of 1918. However, it was raised and put back in service. It sailed for 25 years, including evening and weekend pleasure jaunts that included moonlight dancing. When it lost its postal service contract to a faster, gasoline-powered boat, The Borealis Rex sailed no more.

The sprited Fritzi Wilson

The house was landmarked in 2002 by Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society. A.C. Boudier, longtime chairperson for the CHPS landmark committee compiled the following about the house and the people who lived there. The house remained in the McCain family from 1902 until 2002.

“The McCains had a daughter, Brotsey, who later married Herman Karl Krause. The Krauses had a daughter, who was born in the house, and it was said that she was so tiny at birth, a teacup would fit on her head. She was called Constance, a name she could not stand, and had it changed when she was twelve years old, to Fritzi. For someone who started out small, she became a larger than life personality,” Boudier wrote.

Fritzi married David Wilson in 1959. He died in 1971. The LeBlancs think Fritzi shared the Ford Street house with her father after her husband’s death. Fritzi and her two sons lived downstairs. Fritzi closed off the staircase entrance and kept it locked so the boys couldn’t go up and down the stairs any time they wanted. She was worried for their safety.

Fritzi Wilson, despite being early widowed or maybe because of it, made a name for herself.

The following is the biographical sketch from McNeese State University online archives: “Ms. Wilson was regarded as a pioneer in a time when the newspaper business was chiefly a man’s profession. She was an innovator for female reporting, covering stories that lead her to such adventures as scuba diving and swinging from a trapeze. She moved on to covering city politics, and was on the Lake Charles City Hall beat for 14 years. She resigned from the Press in 1959 in order to marry and raise her family, and returned part-time in 1981. Wilson was known for her passion for art and she performed in local productions, such as that of the lead role in Peter Pan, directed by Rosa Hart. Her interests also lead her to cover the emerging preservation movement in Lake Charles. Ms. Wilson died in 1998.”

“We don’t really think this place has a ghost,” said Courtney. “If it does, it’s a good one. I will admit that when we hear a noise we can’t explain, we do attribute it to Fritzi.

A.C. Boudier described the house as “a one and one-half story transitional bungalow with a wide porch supported by tapered squared columns resting on heavy brick piers that extend to the ground without a break at the porch floor level. The columns support a wide porch roof surmounted with a wide shed dormer with six windows.”

LeBlancs appreciate historical house

The LeBlancs have never considered building new. The like the character, craftsmanship and charm of all historical homes, and their home in particular.

The house has two sets of pocket doors, original floors and its original stained longleaf pine trim with the exception of some baseboards that Joshuah replaced.

“I did my best to make the replacement as much like the original as I could,” he said. “None of the doors have been repainted and I’ve found skeleton keys to fit them all.”

When the HVAC unit was installed, the ductwork was hidden beneath a built in bed on the upper floor.

The kitchen has been totally remodeled with sleek maple cabinets with frosted glass and chrome appliances.

“It’s very modern, but the simplicity makes it work with this house,” said Joshuah.

The LeBlancs have kept the interior comfortable and simple. The star is the woodwork. However, art plays an important supporting role. The LeBlancs have paintings by local artists, Heather Kelley and Candice Alexander, and they have framed sign prints by Georges Rodrigues. They purchase art from their travels that represents popular tourist attractions in New Orleans and Lake Charles.

Exterior and interior decorations are changed in accordance with holidays and seasons.

When asked what makes a house a home, Courtney said, “That’s easy. It’s the people who live there.”

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