In the very northeast corner of Louisiana, rests a little town in a curve of the Mississippi River, situated on an oxbow lake that was once part of the river itself. Cypress trees, glowing in autumn, line a lake that (more often than not) offers a perfect reflection in its smooth waters of the sky above. The land is fertile, the people kind, and the way of life rooted in taking the long slow drive on the levee. Where there are sunset boat cruises, horse rides on turnrows that line fields of cotton, rice, and soybeans. It is on the banks of this lake that in 1884 where Doctor Frederick Robert, Estelle Bernard, and the doctor’s mother Sarah, built a home for their family. Nearly 143 years later, it was purchased by a family who had long-loved the house. Cassie Condrey, her husband Pete Lensing, and Cassie’s brother Jason, along with her sister-in-law Kathleen Condrey, were intrigued by the home’s simple lines. They imply an understated elegance and stature of the front porch that exudes a rooted feeling from other times but only in this enchanting place. Their dream of bringing The Bernard House back to its original glory has now come to life.
The Bernard House sits on a piece of land that had once been Sarah Bernard’s garden. In 1884, she, her son, and daughter-in-law built the home. The family lived in a stunning home until around 1930, Estelle Bernard passed away, who was the last living of the three residents.
The Bernard family owned a drugstore and a medical practice in Lake Providence. They were pillars in the community of many celebrated and successful citizens. Doctor F.R. gained his education at a private school in Pennsylvania and then attended Ole Miss, where his letters are archived. He earned his medical degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. This is where he met his wife, Estelle. They had five children, two of whom died young. Local newspaper articles tell the story of Dr. Bernard’s character. Which were best shown by his kind attention to babies and hosting grand parties at their home. Complete with string ensembles and canaries for entertainment, this home was filled with love-filled fellowship from its early days.
The home, now an immaculate guest house, bears the name “The Bernard House’’. This is because the current family believes it is still The Bernard’s in so many ways. They had the vision and means to bring the home to life. That is a legacy not forgotten as the Lensing’s tell of a carpenter telling them that it isn’t really theirs, only entrusted to them. They replied, “exactly.”
The restoration of the home was considered to be much more than the structure’s beauty. Which in the beginning, may have been hard for most to imagine. The house sat empty since 1965 and was much closer to demolition than any kind of rehabilitation. However, Cassie, Pete, Jason and Kathleen believed it was well worth saving. Their passion for home was apparent in their hidden majesty and deep history. But, for them, saving the house was also about contributing to Lake Providence. They believe in the power of community to bridge gaps or divides, to strengthen bonds, and to connect to a world bigger than each of us as individuals. They believe in working together to improve what already exists and in focusing on the good as well as beauty that surrounds us.
Cassie, the leader of the project, fell in love with the house when she was a child. By the time she turned sixteen and could drive herself, she knew every inch of the property. She would crawl up rotten porches to see inside. At first, she loved the house from the outside, but her infatuation began when she discovered Dr. Bernard’s signature in the center hall. She admired the proportions of the rooms, the original details, and the rich character. When the house became available, Cassie knew she had to have it and her family was on board. Construction was long and grueling at times. But, walking through it now renewed with life, they cannot imagine it any other way.
The Bernard House is beyond spectacular and open for guests. Every space in the home is impeccable, yet continues to embrace the original integrity of every detail. If you have the opportunity to visit The Bernard House, one can be assured that the stay will be personal, restful, and luxurious. Plan your stay at thebernardhouse.com.