Today I’m sharing another plantation that we saw on our recent trip down the River Road. The Laura Plantation is steeped in history and we had a fantastic tour guide to share it with us! It’s not as fancy as Houmas House because it was more of a working plantation. Creole families also believe “business was family, and the family was business” meaning the business could only be passed down only to family. Gender was not a deciding factor either, the smartest, whether male or female, young or old, would be given control. This was definitely not the norm for that time period.
Both Creole and Cajun cultures can be considered as Louisiana's alternatives to the Anglo-American mainstream. Whereas Creole is the cultural life-style that flourished in Louisiana before it was the United States, Cajun refers to the descendants of the Acadians of Nova Scotia (once called Acadie) who were forcibly exiled in the 1750s, placed in internment camps for 10-30 years and who would eventually migrate to Louisiana and live separate from the established Creole and later Anglo elements of Louisiana well into the 20th Century.
The plantation was built in 1804-1805 by Guillaume DuParc, a French veteran of the American Revolution. It was originally known as the Duparc Plantation. It was set a mere 600 foot from the Mississippi River. In order to protect it from sinking, the vertical columns extend eight feet underground in 72 pyramids of brick, touching each other at the base, creating a solid brick flooring. Remember this is eight foot in the ground! All the bricks were handmade on the plantation.
The above picture is a view of the ceiling of the basement or first floor. When the home was under construction, the first thing to go in were the underground pyramids and vertical post. Meanwhile, on the back of the property, workers were cutting cypress for the construction of the home. Everything was measured and marked, numbered and matched-up. It took 11 days to put the house up and not one nail was used. The wooden bolt thingy that is beside the number is actually driven though the vertical wood post that extends to the top of the house.
The color scheme of the 1805 Big House was: ochre, warm red, dark green, cool gray and mauve. These colors are also very popular in the Caribbean, where a lot of people, both black and white, in Louisiana came from. As a matter of fact, over 10,000 people entered the Port of Orleans in 1809 alone. This consisted of both plantation owners and people of color from the recent Santo Domingo uprising. Only the Big House and the plantation office near the sugar mill displayed all these colors. All structures on the farm were painted one of these colors to clearly point out to the illiterate workers the purpose of each structure. At Laura, any building painted ochre meant that someone slept there; warm red was for animals (barns); green was where money or merchandise was traded (store); gray meant storage (cisterns, warehouses); mauve was where daily work not strictly related to the sugar mill and planting was done (kitchens, blacksmith shop). Any building on site not painted one of the colors of the Big House meant that the structure was not part of the plantation business (the Maison de Retrise was a private home and was painted rose & turquoise). I’ll tell you more it a little later.
The color of the house also let passers by know what language was spoken in the home. White homes were English speaking, whereas yellow were French speaking.
Even the plantings around the home reflect a tropical feel. I love the mass planting of ginger!
Now for the house tour! Let’s start in the basement or on the first floor. This area is where they stored food. Perishables were store in large olive jars which were buried in the ground. The outside bottom part of the jars are not glazed allowing the underground moisture to keep the jars cool. The interior and tops were glazed to protect the food. There are quite a few of these large jars in this room with several being originally found in the ground. This area, at one time, housed up to 10,000 bottles of wine!
This is a picture of an office / bedroom. The owner of the plantation, which was usually a women, would conduct business at a desk in her bedroom. This did not always set well with other American businessman. It was quite a few years before the office was separated from the bedroom in order to make guests feel more at ease.
There is just so much history here! I must stop for now but will have Part 2 up and going tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!
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