One of the most popular activities for Louisiana travelers is visiting antebellum plantation homes. The grand structures amaze visitors with stunning architecture, elaborate furnishings and tales of life and livelihood in Louisiana prior to the Civil War.
By the mid-1800s, the highest concentration of millionaires in the U.S. could be found in one winding corridor about 120 miles long — a strip in south Louisiana along the Mississippi River, from New Orleans north to the region near Baton Rouge. The region’s fortunes came from massive sugar plantations, and the mansions to which tourists flock today are where the wealthy planters lived, conducted business and entertained peers and distinguished guests.
And while more than a century has passed since the plantations’ heyday, there are new offerings in the seemingly frozen-in-time region for both first-time and frequent Louisiana visitors.
- Two homes have recently opened to the public. St. Emma Plantation near Donaldsonville is an 1847 Greek Revival home that oversaw one of the region’s largest sugar operations. Ardoyne Plantation near Schriever is one of the largest and most elaborate remaining examples of rural Victorian Gothic architecture.
- San Francisco Plantation in Reserve recently reopened after more than $1 million in renovations. The home’s unique feature is its architecture, sometimes called “Steamboat Gothic” in that it shares characteristics of the paddlewheel steamships that cruised the Mississippi River in the 1800s.
- The Whitney Plantation in Edgard, opened in December 2014, takes slavery as its main focus. Guided tours introduce visitors to three memorials dedicated to telling the story of slavery in Louisiana, along with one of the most complete plantation complexes on River Road.
- Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie recently opened a self-guided exhibit on slavery. Housed in about a half dozen reproduced slave cabins, exhibit artifacts include examples of period clothing and the tools used in agriculture and daily life.
- Houmas House Plantation in Burnside and The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville recently added new overnight accommodations. Houmas House added several upscale cottages that are ideal for romantic getaways, while The Myrtles added cabins that are well suited for families and small groups.
Read more information on the above homes and more than 30 more Louisiana antebellum plantation sites open to travelers statewide.