NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University unveiled a restored historical marker that acknowledges the early presence of Europeans in what would become Louisiana territory. The Colonial Gateway Corral marks the confluence of three paths, one from the west that used by Spaniards; one east towards a residence of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, and one north to the original Fort St. Jean Baptiste. St. Denis was founder of the settlement that became the city of Natchitoches.
The Colonial Gateway Corral was first sighted by St. Denis and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville in 1700 and the hill later became St. Denis’s vacherie where livestock were kept.
The plaque was originally installed in 1970 by the Natchitoches Chapter of the Colonial Dames of the 17th Century. It was the first plaque installed by the Colonial Dames in Louisiana, according to Carol Steinmuller, current Louisiana president of Colonial Dames. She and several past state presidents attended the unveiling. Colonial Dames is an organization that prioritizes preservation and education of historic places.
The historic marker is located in the triangle in front NSU’s Wellness, Recreation and Activities Center where Central Avenue meets Sam Sibley Drive that has been a crossroads for students for decades. The ridge where St. Denis pastured cattle and horses protected them from floods and extends to the site of the 1832 Bullard mansion. In the mid-1800s the mansion housed a convent and in the 1880s was purchased for use of the Louisiana State Normal School, created by the state in 1884, now known as Northwestern State University. Benches in the triangle date to the 1930s. In 1962, the Classes of 1959 and 1960 installed the north-facing Demon Head plaque in the triangle.
Several individuals had a hand in replacing the deteriorated marker. Physical Plant Director Dale Wohletz and special projects coordinators Gil Gilson and Tommy Whitehead collaborated with experts from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training Deborah Dietrich-Smith, Jason Church and Andy Ferrell. The restoration project was supported by the NSU Foundation.