Inside The Great Antebellum Homes of New Orleans
PHOTO: Destrehan Plantation. (Courtesy Destrehan Plantation)
New Orleans offers many great things for visitors to see and do. Just strolling around town, you will spot a variety of eye-catching sights that will grab your attention.
Something that is impossible to miss: the rich assortment of grand homes you will find all over the city and in the surrounding area.
Many of these homes were among the most impressive Southern plantations of a bygone era. To be sure, this brings up a distasteful era in American history, but not all were used as slave plantations and those that were give us a chance to positively educate ourselves and others on what this era was all about.
The closest of these plantations to central city New Orleans is Destrehan Plantation, which is also the oldest documented plantation in the lower Mississippi Valley.
You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time as you tour the grand environment where the sugar barons of yesteryear used to reign supreme over the local region.
Evergreen Plantation is another popular tourist site in this region. It’s a large plantation complex, and has remained largely intact since its most active period. It includes 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, 22 of which were formerly slave cabins. At this and every publicly accessible plantation, you will hear stories of both the positive and negative aspects of the history of these manors, and will be captivated by family stories from ancestors of both the sugar barons and the slaves that provided much of their labor.
Historical connections aside, the architecture of these buildings is stunning, and unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else today. Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is a perfect example of that. It has been painstakingly restored to how it would have looked during the 1800s. No detail has been overlooked, and you can tour 16 rooms that have all been filled with true period art and antiques. You can easily spend an entire day here, leisurely exploring both the manor and the grounds. Take a relaxing stroll around some of the 38 acres of lush greenery, which feature ponds and a gathering of mighty oak trees.
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The Ormond Plantation is sure to fascinate fans of traditional architecture, as it features the French West Indies style associated with the earliest plantation homes. Like many of the other plantations, this one has a colorful history full of highs and lows. It changed hands many times in rapid succession, often after the current owner at the time met with tragedy or misfortune. However, it has now been carefully restored to its former glory. Visitors can even stay for a night or several at the bed & breakfast located on the property.
The San Francisco Plantation is billed as “the most opulent plantation in the South.” While owners of some of the other plantations may quibble with that claim, this property certainly has some distinctive touches, such as the intricate gingerbread work and the five hand-painted ceilings. While it dates back to the same classic antebellum period as many of the other properties, it has its own unique style representing the different tastes of the series of owners who have controlled the property over the years. With countless beautiful details such as fountains and vibrant gardens, it’s easy to see why this property is a popular wedding location.
More by Bobbi Dempsey
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