In honor of National Tourism Week this week we are featuring a different local attraction every day this week. Today we give you the Vincennes State Historic Sites. The sites manage five properties locally including the Territorial Capitol site, the Old State Bank, Fort Knox II, Sugarloaf Mound and most recently acquired the Old French House. The Michel Brouillet home, commonly referred to as the Old French House, is the last contact Vincennes has to its original French roots. The French established a fort in Vincennes in 1730 to protect their fur trade interests. Built in 1809, the home was constructed by Michel Brouillet a fur trader and merchant. The home is unique do to the unusual building technique employed. It is an excellent example of a French Creole cottage. The technique used is called “poteaux sur sole” (post on sill) construction. Unlike the well-known Anglo-American log cabin with its horizontal logs, the French Creole cabin uses fourteen-foot upright posts, spaced about a foot and a half apart and fitted into a horizontal beam called a sill. They are mortised together and held into place with wooden pegs. The logs are capped on top by another horizontal beam called a plate. Between each of the upright posts, the walls are filled with a mixture of mud and prairie grass called “bousillage”. This acts as insulation for the home. The walls where then coated, both inside and out, with rough plaster made of sand and quicklime. Once the plaster was set, the walls are whitewashed. Large porches called “galleries” protected the plaster from the weather. These porches then acted as extensions of the living room during the hot summer months.
The house has four main rooms: the living room, two bedrooms, and a summer kitchen. The home also has a loft and a dug out cellar. The French House was occupied continuously until 1975. At that time the house was acquired by the Old Northwest Corporation, who then took on the task of restoring the building to how it looked in 1809. The home, which sets in its original location, is now owned by the Vincennes State Historic Sites, part of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Corp., and is available for tours.
Submitted by Site Manager, David Weaver