Audubon Pilgrimage shows St. Francisville plantations
Historic homes and gardens go on display annually when Louisiana's spring flowers hit a lovely peak.
History comes alive in the spring around beautiful St. Francisville — the garden spot of Louisiana’s English Plantation Country — as the West Feliciana Historical Society opens the doors of significant historic structures.
The 2010 pilgrimage marked the bicentennial of the West Florida Rebellion which united the Anglo-American pioneers in ousting a Spanish regime that persisted in claiming the area even after the Louisiana Purchase. The resulting West Florida Republic, which lasted for a heady 74 days, had its capital in St. Francisville.
Some of the state’s grandest antebellum structures and gardens are features of this tour, including:
• Audubon State Historic Site and Oakley House (on LA 965 south of St. Francisville). This hundred-acre lush, natural setting features a three-story West Indies-style home built in the early 1800s. In typical colonial style adapted to the southern climate, its jalousied galleries admit cool breezes while blocking sunlight and showers. The artist John James Audubon was hired there in 1821 to tutor the owner’s daughter, and he painted bird subjects he found in the surrounding woodlands.
• Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site. This historic landmark has one of the most beautiful oak-alley entrances in the state. The elaborate double-galleried house has flanking wings, exquisite furnishings and 27 acres of spectacular formal gardens.
• Butler Greenwood Plantation. Established in the late 1700’s by one of Feliciana's earliest pioneers, the simple raised cottage-style plantation house features the area’s finest original formal Victorian parlor. Groves of ancient live oaks and antebellum gardens surround the home, now a popular bed and breakfast.
• Laurel Hill Plantation. Purchased in the 1830s by the founder of the early standard-gauge West Feliciana Railroad, the home's current owners recently completed a thorough renovation for use as a country home.
• Barrow House. A simple two-story saltbox built prior to 1810 with a later cottage addition, this home has long been associated with the family of W.W. Leake, a banker and judge remembered as the young Confederate officer who in 1863 stopped the Civil War for a few heartwarming moments to permit burial of a fellow Mason wearing Union blue. Barrow House Inn is now a popular bed and breakfast.
• The Cabildo. This Spanish colonial-style building (on Royal Street) has 22-inch thick walls of handmade bricks and enormous hand-hewn joists, bespeaking a construction date early enough to have put it right in the center of action in St. Francisville’s earliest years. Now it is a beautifully restored home.
• Afton Villa Gardens. On US 61, 4 miles north of St. Francisville, it features a magnificent serpentine oak avenue connecting its Gothic entrance gatehouse to the ruins. The gardens romantically reclaim the site of the flamboyant antebellum mansion lost to fire.
Especially popular with young visitors is the recreated working Rural Homestead, where demonstrations of old-time skills are accompanied by lively period music.
In St. Francisville, find a daily antique show; historic churches; evening candlelight strolls; a fascinating graveyard tour; and music, dining and dancing around the courthouse square.
For Audubon Pilgrimage information, contact the West Feliciana Historical Society or call 225-635-6330 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on overnight accommodations, call 225-635-4224.