From Bayou Sara, to the Boll Weevil Café, to modern business hub, a St. Francisville landmark lives on.
In a few short months, West Feliciana will see yet another revitalized historic property project become a reality. Located on Commerce Street in downtown St. Francisville, the “Red Horse Building,” as owner Mitch Brashier refers to it, will open as a mixed-use development that is home to multiple office spaces, a retail storefront, and second-floor apartments.
Brashier, a longtime St. Francisville resident and insurance broker by trade, purchased the building eight years ago in order to save it from demolition. The vacant structure, long recognizable for its signature slant, had fallen into disrepair over the years. Brashier took it on as a passion project, fascinated by the building’s architecture as well as its long history as a St. Francisville fixture. An eyesore no more, the beautiful, fully rehabilitated property will serve both residential and commercial tenants in the community.
The building will offer for lease eight furnished office suites with shared conference room and outdoor porch access. There will also be a ground floor boutique, and two residential units on the floor above. Brashier expects all spaces to be ready for tenants by early March.
“It's designed for people who either don't want to work from home or don't want to commute to an office in Baton Rouge every day and need the structure of a professional office environment,” Brashier explains.
“For years, this project has been a labor of love for me, and now it can finally be shared with the rest of the community."
Research into the building’s history reveals an intriguing legacy that can be traced all the way back to West Feliciana’s earliest days. Originally built in Bayou Sara, the Red Horse Building was one of several structures that were relocated to higher ground as the riverside settlement gradually succumbed to repeated fires and river flooding. The building was relocated to the site opposite the corner of Commerce Street and Pecan Grove Road where it still stands today. Throughout the early nineteenth century, Bayou Sara was recognized as the most important port for steamboats and flatboats between Natchez and New Orleans. However, by the onset of the Great Flood of 1927, civil war, fire, flood, and the boll weevil had largely eradicated evidence of the once-bustling community.
During the 1920s, the building housed the Faithful Workers Lodge, an African American fraternal organization that cared for the community’s most vulnerable members, including the widowed and elderly, and pooled resources to cover one another’s medical and funeral expenses. These associations, also known as benevolent societies, proved foundational to the recently freed population, providing care, facilitating fellowship, and promoting racial solidarity. By the time the 1960s rolled around, it was operating as the Boll Weevil Cafe, which endured through the late eighties. After a brief closure, it reopened as the Red Horse Tavern and Inn, and remained a popular local watering hole throughout the nineties and early 2000s.
In August 2019, local builders Charlet Bros. Construction began renovating, which took about a year and a half to complete, since their project timeline was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Brashier worked with BSF on a building loan, and utilized Louisiana’s historic rehabilitation tax credit program.
Brashier is also on the bank’s Board of Directors, a role that enables him to see the full breadth of the bank’s impact in serving the community, and how everyone benefits when we prioritize local investment—in small businesses, new developments, homes for new neighbors. “It’s the fuel for prosperity for our town, I know that firsthand,” he says. “That’s why it’s so important to have a board of directors who live here and understand this place, who can ensure its character and quality of life continues to thrive.”
“For years, this project has been a labor of love for me, and now it can finally be shared with the rest of the community. It took a long time to decide what to do with the space, how to best utilize it so that it could truly be of use to locals and benefit the town," Brashier continues. "Rather than continuing to deteriorate, St. Francisville now has a multi-use, energy-efficient property teeming with activity, attracting new residents and workers downtown.”
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