Saturday, April 04, 2009

Plantation Tour Day

Our second day in Louisiana was a rain day so we spent the day touring sugar plantations along the Mississippi River on river road. Most of them were in Vacherie. It was interesting to see the influence of the french, in particular the Acadians (the cajuns)who had been expelled from Canada by the English 200 years ago. Some day I would love to come back to Louisiana and explore this further. One day does not do it justice!

We started at Oak Alley. It got its name from the line of 300 year old oak trees, obvious in the photos. What a stunning home. Sometime in the early 1700's, a settler claimed land for his dwelling and planted two rows of live oaks to mark its entrance that lead to the river. It's so sad to think that it was built on the backs of black slaves.

Jacques Joseph Roman arrived from France and later, in 1741, married Marie D'Aigle, whose family had moved from Canada, and spent much of the first years of their marriage buying and selling plantations. Of their five children only one son, Jacques Etienne, and his two sisters survived to inherit the estate. The grew sugar and flourished. Unfortunately, due to mismanagement within the Roman family, the plantation had to be sold in 1866 and had various owners ever since.

Down the road was St. Joseph's, a 1,000 acres plantation, where we had a private tour. Raised Creole style home predates nearby plantations constructed in Greek Revival style. The home stands on brick columns 8 feet tall to protect from flooding. It was originally owned by a doctor who cared for the families and slaves in the area. Eventually it was purchased for one of the Roman families as a wedding gift. It came fully furnished and with a full staff of slaves. In 1877, they lost their plantation because they couldn't pay the back taxes after slavery was abolished.

Today, it is still a working plantation and some family still live on the estate. I enjoyed this tour since it had a video about the making of sugar, a mini museum, and different outbuildings, such as slave quarters, an out kitchen, and small schoolhouse.

Unfortunately, we just missed the final tour of the Laura Plantation on the same road as the other plantations. I was able to take a handful of pictures but do not have a full context for it, except for what I read. It is a creole plantation and was built in 1805 and restored to same period. At its greatest it was 12,000 acres in size and apparently the manor house is about 24,000 square feet with a detached kitchen that was 2,500 square feet (the size of my house). I can't imagine farming a property that size or house cleaning a house of that size!
Lastly, I took a picture of the Evergreen Plantation. I love the stairs that set this home apart from the other ones we saw. Apparently the main house was constructed in the 1830s and continued to be in operation growing sugar cane until the 1930s.

1 comment:

Dave said...

These grand plantation homes stand in stark contrast to the slave cabins. That said, I remind myself that today's 15 to 25 million dollar grand estates stand in stark contrast to the home and apartments of those who are the working poor.