In May, the City of Plaquemine began an extensive restoration project on the museum’s exterior. Our building is now over 170 years old, and it is one of the oldest buildings in the parish. It was built in 1850 as the Iberville Parish Courthouse.
In 1848, the parish Police Jury contracted Thomas and George Weldon, two Irish immigrants out of Natchez, MS, to construct a courthouse and jail in Plaquemine, the new parish seat. It cost a total of $16,119.17 and was meant to include a sheriff’s office, a clerk’s office, two jury rooms, one police jury room, and a room to be used as the recorder’s office, with a vault for safekeeping and preservation of the books and papers. A second jail was added to the building in 1883, and a 15 X 18 vault was added in 1888.
By the 1880s, flooding along the Mississippi River began to increase. Citizens worried about the courthouse’s proximity to the river. The parish had also grown in size due to the lumber boom. Many wished for the building of a larger and grander courthouse that was a safe distance from the Mississippi. In 1906, the parish moved into their new courthouse on Railroad Avenue, selling this building to the City of Plaquemine for $3,000. It was promptly renovated to be used as the City Hall.
When the parish completed and moved into the existing Courthouse on Meriam Street in 1985, city government operations moved into the courthouse building on Railroad Avenue, where it remains today. The old City Hall was vacant for several years as the community discussed how to use the building. Under the administration of the late Mayor Mark “Tony” Gulotta, the city, with participation from the community, decided to renovate the building. In 1998 the Iberville Museum Association (IMA) was founded. The following year, the city leased the building to the IMA for $1, and we opened our doors to the public in June 2000.
Recently, the building’s east wall began to bow out about one foot. The city brought in a historical engineer to determine the needed repairs. The building’s two-feet thick brick wall had to be dismantled to repair the structure. They then poured a new foundation, and a block wall was built.
They added stucco to match the existing exterior, and the museum’s roof was repaired and replaced. Additionally, the front columns that had been rotting away from water damage were repaired.
Now the remaining exterior bricks need to be sealed to prevent further moisture damage in the interior. Several interior bricks have eroded over the years. They will need to be carefully cut and replaced with matching old bricks.
We are immensely grateful to the City of Plaquemine for undertaking this massive project! The project was estimated to cost $125,000. It would have been impossible to complete without the support of our mayor and council members.