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have been sought after as speakers at workshops and symposiums. Closer to home, however, their collection is not well known outside the world of historians and antiquarians. Even passersby could easily overlook the property’s significance. After all, no sign proclaims that the LaCour House here is among the oldest surviving structures in the Mississippi Valley. No visitor’s center offers glossy brochures detailing the contents of Maison Chenal, the couple’s primary residence and repository of rare antiques.
To the Holdens, this is simply home. Pat tells of one of her daughters taking care of the birds roosting in the front yard’s circa-1820s pigeonnier while studying pre-med at LSU. Jack casually mentions that another daughter’s childhood chair was once borrowed by the Smithsonian—yes, that Smithsonian—for a special exhibition. When it returned, the chair was put right back into the everyday rotation. For as much as this is a showplace, it is also a real home, where elegant pieces are put through the rigors of regular living. That’s just how the original occupants—at Maison Chenal, Julien Poydras and his kin—would have done it, after all.
“It’s frontier reality with a French flair,” says Pat of the Louisiana Creole people’s propensity to mix sophisticated details with practical features. “They had nice things, but they were out here in a very rustic world. That is how we live in it.”
The bed in Maison Chenal’s master bedroom is a classic illustration of Creole style, with its mix of Anglo and French details.
A mutual fascination with Creole material culture prompted the Holdens to first take an active interest in the worlds of preservation and antique collecting during the 1960s, at a time when Jack was also beginning his medical career. Jack, says Pat, was a “born collector,” while she was a “tenacious researcher.” It was a match made in historian heaven.
The couple’s enthusiasm grew quickly when they took courses on Louisiana architecture at Tulane University while Jack completed his pathology residency in New Orleans. “We decided that was what we wanted to do,” Pat says. It was at Tulane that they embraced the concept of tout ensemble, a French phrase that literally means “all together” and architecturally emphasizes the importance of every part in context to the value of the whole entity. “Everything should relate to each other,” explains Jack. “That was what we wanted to do.”
The couple bought this tract of land along Bayou Chenal in 1974, and they had the late-18th-century house they would call Maison Chenal moved to the site the following year. Abandoned and in disrepair, the house demanded significant restoration, and the Holdens helmed the project themselves, with help from their three small children, Wendy, Derrik and Chanler. By the early 1980s, the structure was finally ready for the family to move in with their growing collection of period antiques.
“Our kids have all been a part of this,” says Pat. “This has been a family project.”
They began adding to their ensemble as opportunities arose. The pigeonnier came next, followed by a kitchen building, a bachelor apartment or garçonnière, and a smaller house next door to the main residence that now serves as Jack’s library. Each was set in place in relation to the primary house just as it would have been hundreds of years ago.
In 1996, the couple’s collecting reached new heights with the acquisition of the Nicholas LaCour House, one of the oldest surviving buildings in the Mississippi Valley. The restored two-room home, which dates to around the early to mid-1700s and was a childhood home of the late Lindy Boggs, now sits across the road from Maison Chenal and only a few miles from its original location. Beside the LaCour House is the final piece of the Holdens’ Creole compendium, a circa-1820 cottage they call the Bayou House.
Within each of these structures, furnishings and decorative objects are positioned in keeping with the tout ensemble idea. Nothing is set down haphazardly; the Holdens have a historical reference for each arrangement. The row of five cups and saucers that perch on a mantelpiece, for example, are inspired by a mid-18th-century encyclopedia entry describing a salon setting. “We’re not just inventing what the people might have done,” Pat says. “It’s more than the objects themselves that we’re interested in. It’s how they’re connected to the way people lived.”
As calculated as the contents of the houses are, the gardens that surround them are equally studied. The front gallery

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