French Azilum & The Marie Antoinette Overlook



During the french revolution, around 1793, french aristocrats left the violence of their country, and settled in rural Bradford County PA.  They stayed for 10 years, until 1803, when Napoleon Bonaparte gained control of his country and offered amnesty for the nobles to return.  

I've wanted to visit this settlement for a few years, but the last time we were in the area we could not find it.  This time we planned a bit better - and since there is a geocache here, we simply navigated to the geocache.  The address is: French Azilum, 469 Queens Road, Towanda PA 18848.  Unfortunately, they are only open on Saturday and Sundays for tours, after September 12th this year.  We visited on the 18th.  This was the only tour guide available.  :-)
The gates were all open however, so we could walk around and see the buildings, and there were brochures in front of the entrance.

"Some of the refugees, loyal to the King, left France to escape the horrors of the Revolution; others fled the colony of Santo Domingo(Haiti) to escape the carnage wrought by the mulatto and slave uprisings inspired by the radical French Assembly. The French refugees even believed that it was possible that the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette and her two children may also use the Azilum as their new home. In the plans of the old town there was even a house built for the queen.

Robert Morris, John Nicholson, Stephen Girard and others were sympathetic to the plight of these exiles and saw an opportunity to profit financially. They formed a land company and purchased sixteen hundred acres to establish Azilum. Three hundred acres were utilized for a planned town with a two-acre market square, a gridiron pattern of broad streets, and 413 lots of roughly one-half acre each. By the following spring, 30 rough long houses were built. Although crude, many of these houses had chimneys, wallpaper, window glass, shutters and porches. La Grand Maison, the most imposing log structure, was the setting of many of the social gatherings and housed Talleyrand and Louis Phillip(future King of the French) as guests. This was also the house that was to be the Queen’s." http://www.frenchazilum.com/history.php

 I was a little disappointed that none of the structures were "original"  - but they did a nice job portraying the basic architecture, using buildings from a similar time frame.

"Although their rough log houses were crude, many had chimneys, wallpaper, window glass, shutters, and porches to satisfy their residents' desire for beauty and comfort. Some also brought with them the little luxuries and extravagances that kept alive the memory of better days. The most imposing building in the colony was "La Grande Mansion," a two-story log structure, 84-feet long and 60-feet wide, which had eight large fireplaces. The scene of many social gatherings, the Mansion hosted Talleyrand and Louis Philippe, who toured Pennsylvania and the west, but lived in Philadelphia."
http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-281




See full size pdf of the plan here - http://www.frenchazilum.com/History.pdf



"The quasi-aristocratic French court set up in the woods of Bradford County quickly failed. Many of the settlers soon moved to Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans. Others later returned to Santo Domingue, where they could better live the genteel life. Still others returned to France under the Directory (1795-1799) and Napoleon's rule (1799-1815). Several families, however, including the LaPortes, Homets, LeFevres, Brevosts, and D'Autremonts, remained in Pennsylvania. Today, the LaPorte house, built in 1836 by a returning member of the family, is the only old structure remaining at Azilum. Several buildings have been reconstructed at the site, which is maintained by a private association." http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-281


THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED TO COMMEMORATE
 AND PERPETUATE THE MEMORY AND DEEDS
 OF THE FRENCH ROYALIST REFUGEES
 WHO ESCAPING FROM FRANCE AND THE HORRORS 
OF ITS REVOLUTION AND FROM THE REVOLUTINON
 IN SAN DOMINGO SETTLED HERE IN 1793 
AND LOCATED AND LAID OUT THE TOWN OF ASYLUM
 UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE VISCOUNT de NOAILLES
 AND MARQUIS ANTOINE OMER TALON IN 1796 
LOUS PHILIPPE, DUKE OF ORLEANS,
 AFTERWARDS KING OF FRANCE, VISITED HERE
 THE PRINCE de TALLEYRAND, THE DUKE de MONTPENSIER,
 COUNT BEAUJOLAIS, THE DUKE de la ROCHEFOUCAULD de LIANCOURT
 AND MANY OTHER DISTINGUISHED FRENCHMEN
 WERE VISITORS OR RESIDENTS FOR A SHORT TIME AT ASYLUM.

The Laporte House
 "The LaPorte House was built in 1836 by John LaPorte, son of Bartholomew LaPorte, an original settler. Before you begin your guided tour, note the fine architecture of the building. It resembles that of French Colonial styles both inside and out. The Palladian triple motif in the third-story gable window is similar to a 16th Century Italian design and may have been copied from Independence Hall." - http://www.frenchazilum.com/explore.php

The Marie Antoinette Overlook

"It is not known whether Marie Antoinette ever knew about Azilum as a potential refuge. Though it is believed she was offered several plans of assistance to help her escape prison, none was ever attempted. As she was executed in the same year and month that the colony was established, it is doubtful that the Grande Maison was built exclusively with her in mind. Nonetheless, the site was still host to significant historical figures. Most notably was Louis Philippe, the last king of France. While only a footnote on Louis Philippe’s tour of America, his stay at Azilum brings extra attention, importance, and fame to this French settlement. In a letter to his advisor, Francois Guizot, Louis-Philippe, known as the “Citizen King” during his reign from 1830 to 1848, stated that his years in America, including his visiting of Azilum in Bradford County, influenced his political beliefs as king." http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Azilum.html


The overlook is located off Route 6, about a 15 minute drive from the French Azilum settlement.  Theres a geocache here too - http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=adab2341-3309-4fff-aec5-98b7d08a74cd  This is where I first learned of the audio tour of this area - it's really well done!  I called the number, and we heard a short history, then they sent me a text message with a link to all the other stops.  VERY nicely done!


This area was a bit...  trashy.  There's a lot of litter, a lot of graffiti, and an "inn" that appeared to be a popular bar.  It's not a bad spot, but it's definitely a different feel than French Azilum.  The view is nice here, but my favorite overlook was the one in Wysox - and even the Wyalusing Rocks overlook was nicer than this one.  If I were in the area, I'd stop at all 3.  :-)

"ASYLUM: A settlement of French Royalists who fled the French Revolution in 1793, was established in the valley directly opposite this marker. It was laid out and settled under the direction of Viscount de Noailles and Marquis Antoine Omer Talon. It was hoped that Queen Marie Antoinette might here find safety. Among many distinguished visitors to this place were Louis Phillipe, Duke of Orleans, later King of France, Prince de Talleyrand, Duke de Montpensier and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld Liancourt."



Links  with more information:

http://www.frenchazilum.com/

There is a great article here, covering the history in a brief overview - http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Azilum.html

http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-281


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