Louisiana Plantations

by William Mclaughlin April. 04, 2014 1522 views

The Louisiana River Road was home to many, many plantations in the 1800s. Four of them have been restored and are open to the public. We only had time for two … Houmas House and Oak Alley.

Houmas House is privately owned, and the man who purchased it ten or so years ago lives there. What a gorgeous place! This is the front garden pond.

Garden paths open on views of the mansion.

The house and the old live oaks dominate the property.

One of two garconnieres at Houmas House. The French word translates to “bachelor pad.” These small houses were for the boys in the family. When they turned 15, they got their own place.

Live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. On our way to Houmas House we had been the first vehicle at the scene of a pretty bad accident. Tara talked to the driver of one of the vehicles, helping her communicate with the OnStar people and waiting with her until the police came. Bill stayed right there, ready to do whatever needed to be done. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience for us both. The minute we set foot on this path, everything was okay again. It's not only beautiful, but such a serene and healing place.

There used to be more live oaks marching from the Mississippi River's edge to the house, but when the levees were built in the 1930s they took out a lot of trees.

The Burnside Tree.

The second garconniere.

This was our tour guide, Sandy, ringing the bell to announce the next tour. She was “Alabama born, but Louisianan by the grace of God.” Her clothes might have been reproductions, but her accent was 100% original!

The opulent dining room.

This is a silver statue of Abe Lincoln. Melted down for its silver content it would be worth about $35,000 in today's market. I'm sure it's worth quite a bit more than that in its present form.

The back wall and window were added later. This is actually a free-standing staircase.

The old carriage entrance separates the big house from the original building from the 1700s.

The kitchen is in the older section. This helped keep heat out of the house.

Coming out the back door of the kitchen, one is greeted by this fabulous fountain in the back yard.

There's a vegetable garden, clearly well tended.

Looking back at the house. The red building in the foreground is the original building, with the mansion behind it.

We left Houmas House and continued on our journey to Oak Alley. On the way we stopped at an old cemetery we came across by the side of the road. The cross on the top says it was founded in 1750. Almost everyone in there had a French or Cajun name.

They bury people above ground in southern Louisiana. We climbed the levee you see in the background and looked over at the Mississippi River.

The tombs were in various stages of disrepair. It's amazing to think of how many times this place must have been under water over the years.

Arriving at Oak Alley, the first thing you see is a reconstruction of the old slave quarters. They're relatively new, and of course nobody has ever lived in them. Each building held a different exhibit.

The plantations of Louisiana didn't grow cotton … the climate is too wet. This land was all planted in sugar cane. Although farming methods have changed a lot over the years, sugar cane is still grown in Louisiana. They boiled the cane juice down in these huge kettles.

We can't remember the name of our guide at Oak Alley, but she was very good. There were probably 30 people in each tour group. It was quite a crowd! This is the living room.

Dinner for twelve in the dining room. That red velvet swag over the table was swung back and forth all during dinner via a rope and a pulley and a slave. It was to keep the flies from settling on the food. They didn't have window screens in those days.

The upstairs master bedroom.

After the original owners let the plantation go, a wealthy couple from Texas purchased it in 1925 and restored the mansion to its former glory. She lived there until her death in 1972. Our favorite story was about Josephine Stewart, the owner, and Bette Davis. The grounds at Oak Alley were used as the film set for “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” in 1964. They wanted to film the interior shots there as well, but Mrs. Stewart wouldn't let them. (Those scenes were eventually filmed at Houmas House, by the way.) Bette Davis reportedly said to Mrs. Stewart, “You don't understand! If you let us film inside the house, they'll pay you a LOT of money!” Mrs Stewart replied, “YOU don't understand. I already HAVE a lot of money.”

Afternoon light washes the porches at Oak Alley.

The view from Oak Alley's plantation house looking toward the Mississippi River.

And here's the famous “money shot.” Oak Alley plantation, framed by its fabulous double row of live oak trees.

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