Louisiana's plantation houses still retain evidence of efforts to make living in the new world as civilized and pleasant as possible. Many are surrounded by vast formal gardens, and the approaches to some of the residences are flanked with avenues of mature live oaks.
In addition to their own farms, many Louisiana planters owned large tracts of land somewhere else where they sent employees to work the soil and maintain the crops. When the land was ready for harvesting, a ship would be hired to bring in sugar cane or rice or cotton. Once ashore, the workers would pack the harvested product into containers called bales. Then it would be taken to a mill to be made into sugar, rice, or cloth.
Planters often built their homes near these agricultural areas. They wanted to be able to check on the progress of their projects immediately. If something went wrong they needed to be able to go back to the house and talk with someone about how to fix it. So most plantations have one main building that serves as a residence as well as a business office. This is usually a large room with a high ceiling that can be divided up by wooden panels or screens if you want some privacy. There may be other rooms attached to this main room such as a kitchen, dining room, pantry, butler's pantry, study, etc.
The Most Glorious Antebellum Mansions in Louisiana
Plantation homes in the South and elsewhere are now renowned as big and expensive architectural marvels, despite the fact that the majority were more practical, working farmhouses. Many plantations had several of these large houses, used by the family who owned them.
They're not called mansion houses or anything like that - that's just what they're not! - but rather "big house". The term is used to describe any large home built in the Southern United States, especially those built before World War II.
In fact, the word "mansion" is rarely if ever used to describe a plantation house. That style of building was reserved for only the richest owners, while the majority of planters lived in much smaller houses. The word "mansion" is usually reserved for larger houses built after the war, such as Fontaine Mansion in Savannah, Georgia.
There are also large northern plantation houses, but they use different terminology. In Pennsylvania, for example, they're called "great houses" because they often have more than one floor. In Virginia, they're called "castles" because of their high walls and large windows. But no matter what they're called, all large northern plantation houses share certain characteristics. They're always grand and luxurious, with large rooms, many fireplaces, and extensive woodwork.
Plantations in Louisiana are among the most popular tourist attractions in the state. The Houmas House Estate, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, lets visitors to experience life on a sugarcane plantation in the 1800s.
Kent Plantation Home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a genuine Creole plantation house erected in 1796, prior to the Louisiana Purchase. The plantation home is one of the oldest houses still intact in Louisiana.
It retains the homestead of a prosperous Creole family, typical of a Louisiana colonial era working plantation, together with its outbuildings. Kent Plantation House protects, interprets, and promotes its historic site in order to teach the public about the history and culture of central Louisiana from 1795 to 1855.
Facebook/Shirley Plantation Shirley Plantation is the most genuine colonial residence in the country of all Virginia's historic structures. This location has been run by the same family since 1638, making it the oldest family-owned farm in the world.
It is located in Tisbury, Massachusetts (near Martha's Vineyard), which is on the Atlantic Ocean, across from Cape Cod. The island was once part of a larger plantation owned by Samuel Wyllys and called "Wyllys Farm". In 1872, George Shirley acquired the property and developed it into a private hunting lodge. He hired architect William Warren to design a new main house, which was completed in 1875. It remains today exactly as it was built over 150 years ago. The estate also includes two other houses: a guest cottage and a barn.
Shirley Mansion is open for tours daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Adults $12, children under 17 free.
For more information about visiting the Shirelle, visit their website at http://www.shirleyplantation.com/.
Shirley Mansion is part of the Tisbury Town Heritage Trust, a non-profit organization that preserves Tisbury's heritage through research, education, and preservation projects.