St. Francisville a hub for Louisiana plantation tours
The area holds a number of splendidly restored plantation homes open for tours daily throughout the year.
Tall, three-story, West Indies-style Oakley (on LA 965 south of St. Francisville), now centerpiece of the hundred-acre Audubon State Historic Site, was built in the early 1800s in typical colonial style as adapted to the southern climate, its jalousied galleries admitting cool breezes while blocking sunlight and showers. The artist Audubon was hired there in 1821 to tutor the beautiful young daughter of the Pirrie family, Eliza; he was paid $60 a month, with room and board plus half of each day free to roam the surrounding woodlands in search of bird subjects. Owned by the state since 1947 and beautifully furnished in late Federal style, the Audubon State Historic Site and Oakley House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site (on LA 10 just off US 61), now a historic landmark with one of the state's most beautiful oak alleys, features an elaborate double-galleried house with flanking wings and furnishings just as elaborate. It was built in the 1830s by wealthy planter Daniel Turnbull for his wife Martha Barrow, and it was she who developed the 27 acres of spectacular formal gardens surrounding the residence. It is now a State Historic Site, retaining a number of interesting original outbuildings.
Butler Greenwood Plantation (on US 61 3 miles north of St. Francisville) was established in the late 1700s by one of Feliciana’s earliest pioneers, English physician Samuel Flower, who planted first indigo and then cotton. Throughout most of the 19th century, it was occupied by Flower’s daughter Harriett, wife of Judge George Mathews, longtime chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court from the time of statehood in 1812. The simple, raised, cottage-style plantation house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is filled with family treasures, including 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 and residence of Louisiana author Anne Butler and her daughter, descendants of the original family.
Laurel Hill Plantation (just off US 61 on Harris-Corner Road at Laurel Hill, north of St. Francisville), was purchased in the 1830s by Judge Edward McGehee, founder of the early standard-gauge West Feliciana Railroad that hauled cotton through this plantation country to the Mississippi River port at Bayou Sara. McGehee’s daughter Caroline and her husband, Duncan Stewart, enlarged the original small Carolina-I structure in the 1870s to accommodate their growing family. Texans Jimmy Hatchette and his wife Mary, whose late parents accomplished the initial restoration of this National Register property in the 1960s, have just completed a thorough renovation for use as a country home.