Bourdier at home with nature, antiques, art

By By Rita LeBleu / American Press

Part museum, part hideaway, and nestled back in an area of Moss Bluff with streets aptly named after the forest and its trees, is the home of A.C.

(Alfred Charles) Bourdier.

Bourdier was the recent recipient of the preservation leadership award by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne during the state’s awards

ceremony honoring Louisiana’s heritage and the people and groups who generate and support that culture.

He is a member of the Calcasieu Preservation Historical Society and oversees its landmark program. He’s served on the board

of the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation for many terms. For the last twelve years he’s been part of the Southwest

Louisiana Tourist Bureau’s “Step-on-Tours” program.

These bus tours take visitors through

historical Margaret Place and the Charpentier District as Bourdier uses

his distinctive

manner and enviable memory to regale passengers with stories about

the different houses and other landmarks based on history,

architecture and the lives of the people who once lived in the

homes.

Bourdier also led European travel tours for ten years. “Paris was my favorite,” he said.

He has traced his Bourdier and Castex roots to Southern France. (Jean Castex founded the town of Mermentau and had operations

in both Jeff Davis and Acadia parish.)

The man has a style all his own. It extends to his dress, his home and his appreciation of art and history.

The exterior of Bourdier’s home

seamlessly flows into its surroundings. Twenty-five magnolia trees which

are now in bloom,

oak, pines and gently curving beds of Asiatic jasmine and iron

plants frame the leaf-green-colored cedar house in a perfectly

natural manner.

“I always coveted the Snead house on

Cricket Lane in Lake Charles. It was truly one of a kind, a treasure,”

Bourdier said.

The design of the Snead house which he describes as “super

contemporary,” a house the Boudiers spotted in a magazine with

“lots of glass;” and a concern for the safety of his youngest son

who had cerebral palsy led Bourdier and his late wife, Gayle,

to design the home they have now.

He remembers the family’s first Christmas in the house, before they actually moved in.

“It was cold. We had a new TV and sound

system, but not much else in the house,” he said. “So we loaded up some

cushions,

hot dogs and cold drinks, built a fire in the fireplace and had

what my sons still consider their most fun Christmas, ever.”

The location of the Bourdier’s house is

somewhat happenstance. He was working as a vice president in charge of

customer service

for Calcasieu Marine, the bank that financed the Moss Bluff

subdivision. It was suggested that he buy a lot and build. “The

bank president said that for lots in the subdivision to sell,

people needed to see something,” Bourdier said. Boudier built

something.

The year was 1973. The design was finalized and the building began, but not without incident. The builder left out the hall

altogether, throwing off the interior’s natural symmetry — including the fireplace design and placement — and eliminating

square footage.

“We decorated around it,” Bourdier said. Without him describing how the house, and especially how the fireplace should have

been there would have been no way to know that it wasn’t built to specification.

The public rooms of the house are open

to an outdoor space, which allowed their youngest son to exit safely in

case of an

emergency through any one of seven sliding doors. Each of these

outdoor spaces is styled differently. Two have water features.

All contain plants and a sitting area. There are few window

coverings.

In Bourdier’s outdoor living area, there is a Joan of Arc statue that he bought at an estate sale. Once it stood guard over

a European convent.

From the head of the brass rhinoceros on the front door (a Feng Shui symbol of protection) to the vintage dresser tray in

the master bath, it is a home full of art, sculpture and antiques and each piece has an interesting story.

Bourdier’s tour included every room, but in the library alone was enough of interest for many American Press Home and Real Estate articles.

Frank Thompson designed the leaded

glass bi-panel door that opens to the library. At the room’s center is a

round glass table

flanked by white Parsons chairs. The base is unusual. “It’s not a

Donghia, but it’s similar,” Bourdier points out. An antique

stained glass window hangs in front of the stationary glass panel

of the sliding door that leads to this room’s outdoor sanctuary.

A Kosta Boda vase holds several stems of wheat from the first

wheat crop ever planted on Bourdier’s family’s farm in Jennings,

the Johnson Boudreaux Farm at Castex Landing.

A bar nook contains a Charlotte Robinson original, Baccarat crystal animals and Lalique stemware designed to represent the

single smiling angel sculpture of France’s Rheims Cathedral.

Three awards dot the bookshelves: His most recent state preservation trophy, a Lake Charles Mayor 2008 Arts and Humanities

Award and a Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau 2003 award.

Books include Knopf Publishers “most

expensive book in its history,” according to a 1991 Ohio newspaper

article. It is the

two-volume work of the Sistine Chapel (numbered 246) photographed

after the Nippon Television Network underwrote the cleaning

of the chapel in return for the exclusive photographic, film and

television rights, the article explains.

There’s a framed invitation to the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation that helps Bourdier remember one of his favorite events.

The food served was created from recipes from the 1800s. John Folse was chef. Dress was evening gown and black tie. Dance

club members demonstrated reels and 18th century ballroom dances.

The guest speaker, a petite woman in

her 80s, gave her presentation from the upper gallery. She started by

saying that she

was 12 years old when her grandmother told her the story of what

she was doing from that very same spot when she was the same

age: Her grandmother was watching the Yankees approaching the

front of the house to arrest her father who was escaping by

horseback.

One of the room’s many interesting

displays is a $20 yard sale find: “I don’t do yard sales. If they’re

throwing it away,

I don’t want it.” Bourdier said with an ever so slight turn of his

head, upward tilt of his nose and flourish of his wrist.

(Part of his story-telling persona includes the ability to “put on

airs” as needed.)

His sister-in-law’s cousin does do yard

sales and according to Bourdier, no matter how low the item is priced

she always complains

that it’s too much. When she spotted a framed New Orleans scene,

she brought it for Eva Bourdier, Bourdier’s sister. Eva and

her husband gave it to Bourdier because of his appreciation for

the New Orleans area.

It just so happened to be an original of the late Robert Kleindschmidt. His wife, Cathy, confirmed that her husband often

went on New Orleans painting sprees to do quick watercolors. On some of these he would include notations for how to create

similar pieces, she told Bourdier.

Bourdier started his college studies in commercial art. He remembers when life drawing models were replaced by Shetland ponies,

dogs, cats and skeletons after the housemother of the girls dormitory called Lether Frazer late one night.

“She always wanted to see what the girls were doing and when she saw their drawings, she went nuts. She called the president

and explained to him what she had seen,” Bourdier told.

The art teacher was replaced. “Rice University in Houston hired him immediately,” Bourdier said.

Bourdier was one of the original

members of the art associates of Lake Charles. It was begun in the 50s

and is still in existence

today. Their current gallery is at Central School.

He changed majors, but never lost his appreciation for art. “But I have helped hang shows from time to time that I was tempted

to turn the right side of the painting toward the wall,” he related.

After he left the art program, Bourdier began studies in history and English but changed to business administration after

he realized that high school students might not be as interested in study as he’d expect them to be.

After 35 years, he retired from

Calcasieu Marine National Bank as VP in charge of customer service. It

was in his role at

the bank that he learned more about antiques and was often called

on to give visitors tours of some of the beautiful pieces

on display there.

His library is chock-full of items of interest, but it is the living area that is most reminiscent of a museum.

One of the most dynamic works hanging in the living room is a piece that was intended for a professional athlete that wound

up hanging at McFillan Art Gallery. It is a framed sculpture by local artist Melinda Antoon.

Almost every piece of the warrior-looking tunic is made of paper (though the casual observer would probably not realize it)

and was influenced by actual Samurai, Greek and Roman combat attire.

There is a bench constructed of recycled barn material from Ireland, Windsor chairs, a Lincoln rocker that belonged to

Bourdier’s grandmother. “She got it when she was two years and I remember sitting in it by the fireplace in her bedroom,”

he said.

There is a Gerard Sellers landscape,

Turkish water jugs, a woven textile wall hanging, Indian fabric

printing blocks, an

enormous handmade copper kettle which Boudier uses for a planter,

decommissioned church candle sticks, pre-Columbian artifacts

and a seahorse skeleton that belonged to his aunt. “She gave it to

me when I was eight. She used to keep it in a box with

a little cotton pad under it.”

Perched atop a tester bedside table that once discreetly held a chamber pot and napkins sits a Florence Kushner dove sculpture.

He had admired it over Kushner’s favorite – a praying mantis. Marsha Kushner remembered how much he had liked it and made

a gift of the sculpture to Bourdier.

He also has a sofa table that he claims doesn’t match a thing, but his wife wanted it, so he bought it. In her powder room,

in a vintage glass tray set, are some of the bath beads he gave her as a Christmas present. They were married in 1963 and

she died in 2008. His love of fine things is not the only element that makes his house a home.

Boudier has his passed down his love of art and culture to his sons, Andre and Chris, taking them along when he hung exhibits

and to Lake Charles Symphony performances when they were four and five years old. “We had seats on the front row and they

were just enthralled by the performance. If we had been sitting any further back, the audience would have probably been a

distraction,” he said.

Both sons are still active in the arts community where they now live and Bourdier displays wood sculptures created by his

son, Andre, in his home. Andre also conducted European tours with his father.

A.C. Bourdier’s love of his family, history, art, and culture can be found throughout his house – and that’s what makes it

special.