While we have been working on finalizing this project over the last 309 days (as of 5-16-12) we have also worked on researching other plantations and bed and breakfast locations to gather information on what works and what doesn’t. In October, 2011, we did one of our most extensive research projects of plantations in Louisiana. It was our 25th wedding anniversary and we spent an entire week exploring the old Southern homes and food in and around New Orleans.
Houmas House Plantation
The first stop was Houmas House Plantation with its beautiful Live Oaks that seem to reach out and welcome you as you come in. This home and its beautiful gardens were well worth going out to see. We made notes on how the gardens lay around the house and what we wanted to add to our plantation.
Then it was off to Nottoway Plantation. This plantation had been turned into a resort with rooms in the main house, caretaker’s cottage and small duplex cabins that were tastefully done to mirror the local slave quarter cabins. The grounds also had a pool and gardens with an indoor and outdoor reception area for social events. Nottoway’s main house serves as a museum during the day and the rooms are used at night for overnight guests. We stayed in the main house on the third floor in one of the family’s guest rooms.
As you walked into the room, the bed alone took your breath away. It was a high canopy style bed with an egg shell carving in the headboard. We had been told by the guide at Houmas that this bed was sought after by many. Downstairs in the basement area was a restaurant and bar. After dinner out, we headed down to the bar for a night cap and had a chance to meet some of the locals that hang out there. We ended up making some really good friends and had a great time!
The next day we made our way over to Madewood Plantation. It wasn’t open for viewing, but it was still really nice to see. Then we found our way to San Francisco Plantation. This plantation had to be one of the saddest ones we saw. This home is beautiful with its bright colors and beautiful Victorian architecture. But what made it sad was that the petroleum company had inched its way up and around the home. The grounds were reduced to just a small few acres with petroleum storage tanks for a view. It is open for public viewing, but we chose not to go in. This is one of the reasons why we feel it is so important to preserve these homes and associated properties. I am sure that the land was slowly purchased up, but what do you have left? I can image the history that was lost and will never be known because the land isn’t there anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a beef with the petroleum company, just the fact that history is lost.
San Francisco Plantation
We then headed over to find the famous Oak Alley Plantation. If you have seen “Interview with a Vampire” and seen Brad Pitts character riding up to his home, then you have seen Oak Alley. As we drove over to it, we found Laura Plantation was just down the street. We had one more day so we decided to save Oak Alley for last and instead went to Laura Plantation.
After seeing all the Southern style plantations, Laura, a Creole Plantation took us by surprise. It did not have the huge home and sprawling property that the others did. This was a working plantation that was built for the business of raising sugar cane. The house consisted of the bare essentials needed for running the business and living areas with little area for entertaining. The grounds had some gardens and several examples of surviving slave quarter cabins. After our visit there, we passed by Evergreen Plantation, but weren’t able to go in because we missed the last tour.
Oak Alley Plantation
Our last day was a trip to Oak Alley Plantation. This plantation is everything you would think of when you go to a plantation. It was true “Gone with the Wind” style. We were even treated to mint juleps on the back porch area.
After Oak Alley, I asked for one more plantation before we left. So we head to Destrehan Plantation. This plantation was another Creole style plantation, but more suited for entertaining. This plantation was also in “Interview with a Vampire”. The grounds were used when Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise walked out of the social gathering with their victims and Brad ended up feeding on the poodles.
Live Oaks at Destrehan Plantation
As we traveled home the next day, we talked about the good points of each plantation and what we felt would work for our plantation. We both decided that the interior furnishing would be key to our plantation. We want to have that “Wow” effect as you enter a room. Our rooms are named for the families that have lived in this plantation and we are hoping to use furnishing for each time period that each family was there. We also realized that like any great outfit, it’s the accessories that make it stand out. This is true with the grounds surrounding the house. In looking at Oak Alley or Houmas Plantation, you see very well kept grounds. But with San Francisco, the lack of land and kept grounds makes the home less appealing. So we are working with a horticultural architect to come up with a design for the best use of the grounds. All in all, this was one of the best research trips we have made so far.
Garden and Fountain at back of Houmas House Plantation