DOYLINE, La. – A historic home turned popular wedding venue was reduced to charred rubble Wednesday afternoon when a fire razed the almost 180-year-old structure.
Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker confirmed the fire destroyed Azalee Plantation, owned by the Montgomery family. Cause of the fire is unknown but heavy storms were passing through at the time of the fire, Parker said.
Transition of the property into a wedding venue took place in mid 2019 with extensive renovations to the house situated on 1,400 acres. The plantation home was built in 1842.
Four generations have called Azalee Plantation home since Sen. Harold Montgomery and his wife, Azalee, purchased the property in 1953. The plantation was currently the home of Bradley and Leigh Ann Montgomery Bates and their son, Benton.
The Montgomery family was the fourth to call the plantation home. The timeline of owners includes:
- Bryan Family: 1842 - 1880
- Plant Family: 1880 - 1935
- House Abandoned: 1935 - 1940
- Tomlinson Family: 1940 - 1954
- Montgomery Family: 1954 - Present
When Harold Montgomery purchased the property in 1954, the former cotton plantation was converted to a cattle ranch. He named the property Ranch Azalee in honor of his wife and Leigh Ann's grandmother, Azalee Wilson Montgomery. The property is still used for cattle ranching and still bears the name Ranch Azalee.
When the house was placed on the National Historic Places Registry in 1999, the family decided to use Bryan House as the historic name. Before then, the house was likely never known as the Bryan House but naming it for the family that built it is somewhat traditional and a way to honor their memory.
Even though the house is called Bryan House and the property is called Ranch Azalee, the Montgomery family decided to name the wedding venue Azalee Plantation. “We felt the name serves the dual purpose of honoring Leigh Ann's grandmother as well as recognizing the historical significance of the property as a true antebellum plantation.”