Louisiana’s Top 5 Historic Homes Tours

Beignets, alligators, the French Quarter, and historic homes: these are typically what you’ll find at the top of most visitors’ Louisiana itineraries. Even if you only have a few days to explore New Orleans and beyond, the chances that you’ll end up at a plantation are pretty high.  Many of the state’s amazing antebellum homes and plantation mansions remain intact, and are meticulously maintained and furnished with beautiful period pieces. These classic homes and gardens are located all over the state, with large concentrations along the Great River Road, across south and central Louisiana, and in “Plantation Country” between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Others are located in West Feliciana Parish around the St. Francisville area, and along Bayou Teche near New Iberia.  But with all of the options–and the history, both good and bad–which of the state’s many sprawling properties should you visit? This list contains the 5 best plantations in Louisiana. Make the most of your time along the River Road and beyond as you learn about Southern history at these properties.

Why are these the best plantations in Louisiana?
Before we delve into the specifics of the list, it’s worth asking why we should focus on antebellum Southern history in the first place.  After all, it’s been over 150 years since the heyday of the Southern plantations–and they’re still some of the most popular sites to visit below the Mason-Dixon line. Why?  Maybe it’s because they’re the closest thing we’ve got to the castles of Europe. Maybe it’s because we want to remember the history of slavery so we never repeat it again. Maybe it’s because we’re still amazed that people could have that much money to own such massive parcels of land.  No matter the reason, plantations are big business in the South. The history that can be found on these plots–from the oral traditions and basketry skills of the slaves to the political machinations of the plantation owners, is amazing.


So, for each of these plantations, it is important to look at how many different stories were told at the properties:


– Was the narrative just of the typical wealthy white male owner, or were there stories of the enslaved people and the white women who lived there as well?

– Was there a balance in narrative between the antebellum period, the Reconstruction, and modern restoration?

– Was there a focus on history as well as architecture?

– And, was there something specific about this property that made it stand out from the others?

Not only are these properties well kept and beautiful, but they do an excellent job of telling more than 300 years of history alongside the modern day interpretation of what a historic property such as these should be and do.


1) Houmas House

At its peak in the late 1800s, Houmas House produced over 20 million pounds of sugar a year. Only a few decades later, the Great Depression hit and caused the family who owned it to board the place up. A new owner took over in 1940, and over renovations inside and out, he opened the house and grounds to the public in the early 1960s.  The most recent owner, Kevin Kelly, bought the property in 2003 and has expanded the plantation’s offerings to include a massive garden, restaurant, and inn.

2) Laura Plantation

Built in 1805, this Creole plantation is only one of fifteen in existence with this particular building style. This plantation was particularly interesting since it is 1) named after a woman, Laura Locoul Gore, and 2) was run by that same woman during its heyday. Most of what is known about the plantation comes from Laura’s journals.  It is rare to come across a plantation that focuses so completely on a female owner and operator, and thus, Laura Plantation is an excellent foil to the narratives that you’ll see at many other Southern plantations. The Brer Rabbit folktales were collected by Norman Marmillion, a preservationist who saw the value in recording the oral tales brought to America from Senegal by the slaves. During his time finding and recording these stories, Marmillion spent a significant time at Laura Plantation, and, because of this, the plantation is considered to be one of the birthplaces of the Brer Rabbit tales.  Additionally, the tour at Laura Plantation includes a walk through of one of the slave homes, and it is heartbreaking to see how little they were given in order to eke out a life.

3) Rosedown Plantation

From a purely architectural view, this plantation house is stunning, and it’s clear why it makes the list of best plantations in Louisiana. It’s all white clapboard and hand carved spindles and huge porches.  Agriculturally, this property is also unusual. Unlike the other plantations on this list, Rosedown’s crop of choice was cotton. The original owners’ descendants decided to sell the entire property in the mid-1900s, and an avid gardener named Catherine Fondren Underwood bought it. Underwood revitalized the gardens to their former beauty using heirloom seeds and cuttings.  Today, the property is preserved in a state park. Strangely, Rosedown has built in closets, something that was nearly unheard of during the early 1900s. Most people kept their clothes in wardrobes or trunks.

4) Oak Alley Plantation

One of the most iconic of the historic mansions along the River Road, Oak Alley continually tops lists of the best plantations in Louisiana–and for good reason.  Also a sugar plantation on River Road, Oak Alley fell into disrepair after the Civil War and passed through many hands before Andrew and Josephine Stewart bought it in 1926. Because of their restoration efforts (the first of the major restoration projects in this area), the plantation remains in the excellent condition that it is today. After Josephine died, the entire plantation went into a trust so that the property would remain open to visitors.

As a pop culture aside, there have been SO many things filmed at Oak Alley, the most well-known of which is a portion of Interview with a Vampire. More recently, Beyonce chose this plantation to shoot both her “Deja Vue” video and photo inserts for the “B’day” album.

5) Myrtles Plantation

One of the Myrtles’ main advertising tactics is to focus on the supposed hauntings. Dating from the late 1700s, Myrtles was built by “Whisky Dave”–and you know the place is exciting just because of that guy’s name. In the mid-1800s, the house exchanged hands; these new owners put in specially etched glass with crosses in it in order to ward off the evil that was in the house.  Most recently, the ghost of Chloe, a former house servant, has taken center stage with her appearance in a 1992 photograph. For those brave enough, the Myrtles Plantation also serves as bed and breakfast.

 

When is the Best Time of Year to Take a Plantation Tour?

 

It really depends on what you mean by “best”, but we’ll break it down by best weather, best prices, and least crowds. In terms of weather, you’ll find relatively warm and mild weather most of the year in Louisiana. You’ll get the best weather between the months of November and May, expect it to be warm but not too humid. June to the end of November is hurricane season, so expect rain and possible storms and rain is also common in the spring. Mosquitoes can exist in Louisiana all year, but are worse during the summer months and are generally fairly active from about March to October.

The most crowded times are around the New Orleans festivals and events, so avoid them if you are looking for smaller crowds and better hotel prices. The biggest events are the Sugar Bowl (early January), Mardi Gras (February/early March), French Quarter Fest (April), Jazz Fest (April/May), and Halloween. The months of July, August, and December tend to be the least crowded but July and August are the most humid and hot. July and August also tend to be when hotels offer their cheapest rates.

Those looking for a good balance might consider December, May, or June. During the month of December, many plantations are decorated for the Christmas holiday season.

For more info about the best Louisiana Plantation tours, click here.  For more Louisiana travel tips and info, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Why does Louisiana have Parishes?

Louisiana is the only state that is separated by Parishes and not counties. But why is that? The answer is actually quite simple. Louisiana was officially Roman Catholic under both France and Spain’s rule. The boundaries dividing the territories generally coincided with church parishes. In 1807, the territorial legislature officially adopted the ecclesiastical term. Through each change in history, Louisiana never deviated and the primary civil divisions have been officially known as parishes ever since. In this article, written by worldatlas.com, you can read more about the history of Louisiana including Colonal Louisiana, The Louisiana Purchase, and more detailed information about the 64 Louisiana Parishes.

For more articles similar to this one, click here.

Mississippi River Stopping Louisiana From Coastal Restore

The Mississippi River isn’t nearly as muddy as it used to be, and that could be bad for Louisiana coastal restoration. According to a recent article written by nola.com, “A new study indicates the concentrations of sediment in the lower Mississippi River have decreased by more than half in recent decades. That’s not good for Louisiana, which depends on a constant supply of river silt, sand and mud to rebuild land on its ever-eroding, ever-sinking coast.”

Although this is devastating news for coastal restoration warriors around Louisiana, there are many who are prepared for what this new study shows. The article written by nola.com also reveals, “The Mid-Barataria and Mid-Breton diversions the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) plans to build in Plaquemines Parish would channel sediment-rich water from the Mississippi into estuaries and bays that have been starved of sediment by the river’s levee system. The two diversions, which would cost a combined $2 billion, are expected to restore marshes lost to erosion, subsidence and sea level rise.”

For more information on the coastal restoration future for Louisiana, click here.

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$1 Million Pledge for Tulane Brain Institute

The Tulane Brain Institute at Tulane University has received a generous donation of $1 Million made by the Priddy Family Foundation.  The Priddy Family Foundation was founded in 1963 by the parents of Tulane alumnus Robert Priddy, a businessman and former president of the foundation.  The donation was made specifically for the research of brain science.  Tulane says it will also fund competitive awards as incentive to faculty for research support.  Criteria for the awards would include a project’s potential to increase community awareness of the Brain Institute and help to draw financial support from other competitive national funding agencies.

The Brain Institute was established in 2016 to coordinate neuroscience endeavors at Tulane.  Scientists working at the Tulane Brain Institute are hoping to answer some of today’s most important questions about the brain and nervous system. There are discoveries being made in Tulane labs everyday and they are leading to greater understanding of and development of potential treatments for brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, PTSD, anxiety and depressive disorders, and developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD. The Brain Institute hopes to build on these accomplishments, invest in neuroscience research across the University, and enhance the national reputation of Tulane in the area of brain science. To learn more about the Brain Institute click here.

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Louisiana Offers Free College Courses for Teachers

The Louisiana Department of Education has recently announced they will be offering free college courses to qualifying teachers in Louisiana. They have announced that  “an application for the BESE Tuition Program for Teachers, which will allow public school teachers to enroll in courses at any regionally accredited college or university, as well as some private universities, in Louisiana at the state’s expense.”

According to the article released on the Department of Education’s website, “The application prioritizes teachers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and those accepted to participate in the program who will be taking STEM-focused coursework will join a newly created cadre of educators called STEM Fellows, who will work with the Department and the LaSTEM Council to further STEM initiatives across the state.”

For more information and how to apply, click here.

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Delish.com is well known for sharing some of the most tasty and popular recipes that are searched for on the internet. Which is why is it no surprise when the Lemon Garlic Shrimp recipe is featured on their website. This recipe is not only appetizing and easy on the taste buds, it also takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. The full recipe, with pictures and video included, can be found here.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp. butter, divided

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. dry white wine (or water)

Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. Add shrimp, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook until shrimp is pink, 3 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon butter, lemon juice, white wine, and parsley.
  3. Serve

For more recipes like this one, click here.