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Out of the Shadows

Ivy Vale Plantation, formerly The Shadow House, offering Christmas tours to benefit St. Jude

The Shadow House, now known as Ivy Vale Plantation, will be hosting candlelit Christmas tours throughout December.

The house is not only the renovated home of Denton Culpepper, it is now a bridal and wedding event facility.

“I asked what could I do to let people see inside the house and still do something productive,” Culpepper said.

Culpepper will be writing a check for the proceeds of the event during Minden’s St. Jude giving event.

“ Instead of doing it one weekend, I figured if I do it all three weekends. Surely everyone who wants to see it can make it at one point,” Culpepper said.

The history of the house makes it a special place to tour and learn more about. The house originally started as a one room cabin in 1816 built by the Byas family. They lived in a 20 by 25 foot log cabin with three kids. The family made a living by farming.

“They were pioneers at that point. In the 1830s, in south Louisiana, there was a large population, but in North Louisiana, there were very few people. They’re closest neighbors were almost five miles from here,” Culpepper explained of the original owners of the home.

Decades later in 1850, Calvin Leary was traveling in covered wagons with his wife and child. The log cabin was standing on the side of the road abandoned.

“He was actually on his way to Texas but he and his wife stopped here because she was tired of traveling. They came here in December and they had an 8 month old baby with them. They’d been sleeping in covered wagons for weeks and she wanted a roof over her head,” Culpepper said.

The family spent the night in the cabin. Leary got up the next day and liked what he saw here so he approached the Byas family who’d vacated the property and bought it from them about a week later.

Leary dismantled the 1816 log cabin and numbered the logs to restack it. He added a room to the cabin and rebuilt it with the original logs. It was then a two room dogtrot house with porches around. In 1852 and 1853 he started closing the porches in to add bedrooms to the house. Once Leary became wealthy with money from cotton on his plantation, he added a dining room and a parlor.

“They were very fancy. They had wallpaper, they had faux painting and marble,” Culpepper described.

Leary also covered the cabin part of the house with clabber to make it all look like one plantation house even though the original cabin was still the main part of the home.

Leary lived in the house until the 1880s. After the Civil War he never recovered his money. His wife had expensive taste. Leary wrote in his diary about his wife going to New Orleans and buying silk.

“She broke him. He ended up dying in Minden in a rent house,” Culpepper said.

In 1906 the Shadow family bought the house. The family owned the home until 2017 when Culpepper purchased it.
Culpepper said he always knew the Shadow House and had driven by it thousands of time. After renovating two other older houses, he decided to take on his biggest challenge yet.

“A lady that I’ve known, one of the Shadow family heirs, Ms. Susan Shadow was eating with her now deceased husband at Habacu’s and we were just making small talk. I asked her what are you going to do with that old house and she asked, ‘Do you want it?’” Culpepper explained.

About a week later Culpepper began negotiations with the entire family. It took over a year and a half to get it because there were several family members that were not interested in the sale. However, it finally worked out. From negotiations to finishing the rehabilitation of the house took about three years.

Culpepper owns Calvin Leary’s diary and understands the day to day life of the home as a plantation because of it. He has details of his life and even found and repurposed the original cornerstones of the slave quarters that sat next to the home.

The furniture is designed in the same period as Leary’s and there is one piece that is believed to be Leary’s. The home still has the original windows and doors and one can still see the slats of the original cabin within the home.

Candlelight tours will be held December 8, 15, and 22 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. All tours will last 45 minutes to an hour. They will entail early pioneer life, plantation life of the inhabitants and slaves and the Shadow family nursery life. Groups of 10-25 can tour the house anytime of day or evening before 8pm.

“This is going to a good cause so it’s worth people coming out,” Culpepper said.