Friday, April 05, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 12

More Plantations!

                Some of the most beautiful and/or intriguing plantations you’ll ever see can be found in Louisiana, and while I’ve spent the most time at the Myrtles, there are others, some smaller, some larger, each with their own little piece of history in the greater scale of things.
Remember, plantation means farm, so some are huge, others are modest, but all have something special.

                The Myrtles is an Upper Mississippi plantation, so we’ll look at a few more of those plantations today.

                Just down the road at 8345 Highway 61 (St. Francisville) is Butler Greenwood Plantation—a bed and breakfast. Butler Greenwood is remarkable for the fact that the plantation has stayed in the same family throughout the years. It was built by a Pennsylvania Quaker, Doctor Samuel Flower, in 1796 as a cotton plantation. Harriet, the good doctor’s daughter, continued to run the home and grounds as a cotton plantation  during most of the following century—until her death. But the family picked up the reins. The plantation is still producing cotton—but now it’s open to the public.

                It’s furnished with wonderful antebellum pieces and has an absolutely gorgeous stairway that is a must-see to me. Another must-see is the twelve piece parlor set all made of rosewood.

                Cast iron benches adorn the grounds which are enchanting.

                Something else special—there are family portraits to be seen throughout the house. It’s fun to wonder about the men and women who went before and lived and breathed in the house and called it home.

                Okay, frankly, Highway 61 can be a great ride in itself, just going from plantation to plantation. Next, we’ll mention Catalpa (9508 Highway 61.) The house is a reconstruction; the original was destroyed by fire in 1885. But it was first built by William J. Fort in the early 1800s—he was a man famous for his charm and for welcoming visitors into his home. The reconstruction is lovely and the grounds well worth a visit.

                Not to be confused with Butler Greenwood Plantation is Greenwood Plantation, also on Highway 61. (Pretty sure that we average tourists can’t just do the river-drop-by anymore!) Greenwood is one of the largest of what
they call the “American-style” plantations. It’s majestic—truly beautiful when seen just as one approaches. The Greek Revival home was built for William Ruffin Barrow. At one time, there were forty plus outbuildings for all kinds of work, making the home entirely self-sufficient. Mr. Barrow must have been one smart cookie—he anticipated that no matter what anyone’s “Cause,” the Civil War was going to wreak havoc on the South and he sold out. The plantation became a hospital and after that, well, as Mr. Barrow had surmised, it began to fall apart.
Restored in 1906, it too became victim to a fire, but the grand columns remained and (28 Doric columns, awesome!) and once again, Greenwood was restored. It’s also a bed and breakfast and—you guessed it—lots of people seem to want to get married at such a beautiful place.

                Cottage Plantation is also in St. Francisville, and it can be found at 10528 Cottage Lane (still really easy!) There’s some real history here; Judge Thomas Butler—the son of Colonel Thomas Butler, one famed for being part of the “Fighting Butlers” who served beneath General George Washington. The house is truly beautiful—inside you’ll find gold-leaf wallpaper and all kinds of exquisite and
historic bric-a-brac. The proper includes many outbuildings, including slave cabins and others, and a restaurant. Of course, accommodations are offered!

                At 12501 Highway 10, you’ll find Rosedown Plantation. It’s big, it’s wonderful. Cedar and cypress create a gabled central structure and massive Doric columns support a double gallery, or wonderful porches that look out over the grounds. This plantation was owned by the Turnbull family
from about 1835 to 1855 and what’s wonderful about that was Mrs. Turnbull—she was a horticulturalist and she is known to have brought to the area the first azaleas and camellias. This means that there are acres and acres of beautiful gardens to be seen here. The State of Louisiana now owns the plantation and has taken loving care of it—restoring what was lost when the previous owner sold off some of what had been original.  A tour takes about forty-five or fifty minutes.

                While in St. Francisville—now at Highway 965—you can also stop in and see Oakley House an Audubon State Historic Site. (Great thing about Audubon—the man did get around!) The house was built by a wealthy Scotsman, James Pirrie, between 1808 and 1810. In 1821, James Audubon came to the house to teach the young lady of the manor. He wasn’t there that long—a few months; seemed he and the wealthy Scotsman didn’t get along that well. But, while he was there, he painted many of his images of birds
that later appeared in Birds of America. You can go and see the study where he worked, and, naturally, you can see gardens and . . . birds.

                As you can see, there are all kinds of wonders here to choose from. It depends what you’re looking for. Quiet and beauty and serenity and a sense of the past, or gardens and trees and the richness of nature. Some of the houses can be toured easily, and some are places where you’re going to want to stay. There’s something magical about waking up a plantation that’s now a bed and breakfast. Sometimes, you want what’s real and oldest, sometimes you want what’s biggest and grandest.

                Sometimes, you want it all.

          If you start out bright and early, I’d still suggest finding the one that appeals to you most and checking in on any of their web sites about what they offer and what their prices are for whatever season you’re traveling. We’re all different in what we love, like, and really don’t care about at all. I’d find it hard, though, not to be intrigued in some way.

                And these are just the plantations of the Upper Mississipi!

                Tomorrow . . . the Lower Mississippi Plantations! (Those include the famous and glorious Oak Alley, the Creole plantation, Laura, Nottaway, and the unique San Francisco!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Just like in Deadly Night! I loved that book!