Chaumette Vineyards & Winery’s Owner Hank Johnson is pleased to present the opening of the newly restored Bequette-Ribault House in historic Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.
This historic museum is open for public tours April through October Saturdays and Sundays from noon – 5pm and closed November thru March, though private tours can be arranged on Saturdays based on availability, by calling 573-747-1000. The Bequette-Ribault House features a Hospitality Center in one of its restored outbuildings with a timeline of events surrounding its history as well as a Tasting Bar, offering tastings and purchase of Chaumette’s award-winning wines.
The Bequette-Ribault House was built by Jean-Baptiste Bequette, Sr. in 1808 and is located across from Le Grand Champ agricultural fields from the original French settlement in the mid-1700’s. The two-room house is most noted architecturally by its original steeply pitched Norman truss roof and “poteaux-en-terre” construction, or “posts-in-the-earth,” a reference to its vertical logs built directly into the ground. Five such “poteaux-en-terre” structures remain in the United States, and Ste. Genevieve is home to three such buildings. The outbuildings include the renovated Hospitality Center, which was formerly a chicken coop, the Durand Cabin, a small structure moved from Chadwell Lane in the 1980s, and a barn and corn crib.
The Bequette-Ribault House is a medium-sized Creole house about 36 feet in length with a central chimney. The original hipped roof and the encircling outer gallery was restored in the 1980s, and Hank Johnson purchased and fully restored the house beginning in 2013.
Johnson replaced the roof using historically correct cedar shingles, repaired the windows and shutters, replaced the deck boards using historically correct square nails, preserved the house’s white color with fresh whitewash and furnished the house with simple period furniture to accurately reflect how farmers lived.
One of the first St. Louis Lafayette Square residents to restore a historic home 37 years ago, Hank Johnson has restored dozens of buildings in the Lafayette Square neighborhood and was thrilled to restore Bequette-Ribault. Hank states, “I’ve admired this building from my very first visit to Ste. Genevieve, nearly thirty years ago, and I’ve always thought it was the quintessential vertical-log building. It has been a pleasure and an honor to restore it to its best face.”
The Bequette-Ribault House was originally built by the Bequette family, one of many wealthy and educated Ste. Genevieve families at the time. Upon Bequette Jr.’s death, the property was sold in March of 1840 on the courthouse steps to the highest bidder, Antoine Recole, a free man of color, for $405. Two months later, Recole sold the property for the same amount to a free woman of color named Clarisse, a former slave in the Francois Janis household.
A friend to Jean-Baptiste Bequette, Jr., Jean Ribault had been a minor aristocrat in France and was a wealthy resident of Ste. Genevieve. During the time she was a slave, Clarisse gave birth to two children who were given the last name Ribault, and it is unclear how Ribault met Clarisse. Interestingly, Clarisse was included in Jean Ribault’s will, who died in 1849. The only owners of the property from 1840 until 1969 were Clarisse and two generations of her descendants, all of whom had the last name Ribault.
An advocate for historic preservation, Hank Johnson continues to uncover facts about the house through careful research stating, “There are many delicious mysteries in the story of the people who owned this house, and we continue to look for answers. How did Clarisse meet Jean Ribault? How did Clarisse acquire the money to purchase the house, and what were the circumstances behind her freedom?” Johnson believes in the importance of sharing the history of this house, and states, “The story about this house is really about the people who lived here ~ it is meaningful beyond the idea of preserving history, as it gives us perspective as to what life was like compared to our lives today.”
Future: A National Park?…
The Bequette-Ribault House is part of an area that includes another historic property along St. Mary’s Road that is currently under consideration for becoming a national park by the U.S. National Parks Service. A years-long study by the U.S. Department of Interior as to whether the area meets federal criteria to be included in the National Parks system is currently under final review.