Briarwood: The Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, 216 Caroline Dormon Road, Saline, Bienville Parish, LA
Significance: Briarwood, now the site of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, was originally a tract of land belonging to the Dormon family. Caroline Dormon (1888-1971), noted conservationist, horticulturalist, and author, shaped Briarwood as her natural garden and cultivated many native plants there. Dormon primarily collected plant material from Louisiana and other regions of the southeastern United States, but she also conducted experiments with these and other examples gathered from all over the world. The Louisiana iris was of particular importance to Dormon and this species is featured at Briarwood today in the iris bog that is called the Bay Garden.
Dormon began her Bay Garden in the 1940s as a place to nourish her seedlings and to record the successes and failures of her cross-pollination experiments with irises found in the wild. Although Dormon was not alone in her work with the iris, she introduced several award-winning variations that brought her much acclaim between 1942 and 1952. Because of its significance to Miss Carrie, as Dormon was affectionately called by her friends, the Bay Garden was the first place at Briarwood to be restored by the Foundation in the 1970s.
Dormon and her work were of particular importance on a state-wide basis as well as on a national scale. She lobbied for the establishment of state parks and an arboretum in Louisiana and for federal protection of the Longleaf Pine forests. Moreover, she did so – and made herself heard in political circles – despite the gender barriers facing her generation. Dormon was an educated female, but she was neither a traditional society lady of the early twentieth century nor was it money that gained her cause acceptance. She attended Judson College in Marion, Alabama, an institution she described as an "old southern school for girls." At Judson, she planned to become an illustrator but she "finished both academic and art"; later Dormon painted with the Natchitoches Art Colony studying under Will Stevens. While not trained in science or formally taught about forestry in school, Dormon began to draw and to write about nature because she "simply loved it." Her personal studies of birds, flowers and trees brought her to the attention of the Louisiana Federation of Women's Clubs President Mrs. A.F. Storm, who persuaded Dormon to become her Chairman of Conservation. It was in this role that Dormon - although she protested she was "not a club woman" - could promote her desire for the preservation of a tract of Longleaf Pine.
It also turned into her first position with the state Forestry Division, where she wrote Forest Trees of Louisiana and How to Know Them, soon adopted as the standard text for schools and for foresters of the region, and where she was in a position to promote her interest in the establishment of a national forest to lawmakers. Dormon's advocacy efforts of the 1920s culminated in the land purchases necessary to create Louisiana's Kistachie National Forest in 1928-1930, its authorization by the Department of Agriculture in June of 1930, and its formal establishment by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936. With a tract of Longleaf Pine under federal oversight, Dormon increasingly turned her attention to Briarwood and to her experiments with various plant species; at Briarwood, Dormon indulged in her personal pleasures of writing about and painting the natural world she saw outside her window and beyond.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N3
Survey number: HALS LA-1
Building/structure dates: after 1888- 1971 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: ca. 1971 Subsequent Work
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 16000761