Monday, July 14, 2014

Road Trip, Day 13 - Oak Alley Plantation

While we were planning our road trip and the week we were going to be spending in Louisiana, my daughter shared with me that she'd love to see Oak Alley Plantation.  She'd seen photos of it years prior and didn't want to miss it, if at all possible.  So, there was no way we were going to leave Louisiana without going to see it!  

During our stay at Dansereau House, we took a drive to see it.  It was just half an hour away.
It's a beautiful place!


Sadly, because it is a Southern plantation, there is a dark part to it's history...slavery.  That is where we began our tour (this part is self guided).  The original slave quarters/homes are long gone but replicas have been built to show how the slaves lived.  There are two rows of them.  One side has some items inside each home that slaves might have had....like a sack on the floor to sleep or a stool.  The doorways in that row are roped off and there are signs in each one that explain various facts about how they lived, worked, were treated, and died.


Here's the other row...


And, a photo of just one of them with lean-to chairs
(or that's what I thought they were) leaning against the wall.


This row is made to be walked through with exhibits and information.  I was already sad about the slave history of this area and I felt it as I came onto the property.  But, this part really got to me and it was hard not to cry.  It's incredibly, unbelievably horrible that any human can treat another with such cruelty and disrespect.  The item on the right side of this photo bothered me a lot!  It would have been placed around the neck of a slave to limit their movement and ability to run away.  The bells hanging on the parts that stick up were to make noise to make it even harder for them to get away.


This sign hangs in one of the houses...


Here is the wall with names of the slaves that were at Oak Alley...


 A little understanding about slavery at the plantation did reduce it's beauty somewhat.
Although, the the old oaks are majestic and a bit haunting.  This is the double row of oaks that leads from the Mississippi River to the front of the house.  Rows of trees were planted in this way to cool the air as it blows through them which helps to cool the house.  All sides of the house were lined with windows and they're placed directly across the house from one another for maximum airflow.


This is the same row of trees, looking from the house veranda toward the river...


These oaks are amazing!  Here's the same view from the ground...


I think it's only possible to grasp their enormity in person.  But, I did try to capture it in pictures.  Here's a closer shot to show the roots...


And, even closer to show the ferns...which weren't all that small...for even more perspective...


Here's a creative little shot looking up the trunk at some of the baby ferns...


The main house has a guided tour.  Here's our lovely tour guide...


We started in this room.
The couple who had the house built are in the two paintings on the far wall.


There were some interesting items on this table.  The candle stand was used when a boy came to court one of their daughters.  If the father liked him, he'd rotate the candle up for a longer burning time.  When the flame reached the metal part it was time for him to leave.  If the father didn't like the guy, he'd provide very little burn time.  They sell candle holders like this in their gift shop.

The gentlemen would retire to this room after dinner to smoke and drink rum which was made with the sugar cane they grew.  Women weren't allowed to drink hard spirits.  The woman of the house must not have liked that and figured out a clever way to get around it.  She'd put some in a jar with fruit.  It became a "fruity" drink and therefore acceptable for the women to enjoy.  I'm impressed!


One of the interesting things in the dining room was the table that was very short.
People were much shorter back then!  I wish I remembered the height but trust me...it was short!


Another interesting thing in this room is the device hanging over the table.  A rope ran across the ceiling from it to the corner where a slave sat and pulled a rope to gently swing it back and forth.  They needed to swing it enough to cool the guests and keep the flies away but not so much as to put out the candles.  There were also fly catching jars (also sold in the gift shop) on the table...they're the things with hankies on top so guests didn't have to see the buzzing and dead flies inside the jars.


This is one of the bedrooms.  Most of the things in the house are not original as the house was eventually taken by the bank (long story...you'll have to read about it or visit) and the owners must have taken the things with them or something.  The house was vacant for a long time and cows broke in and destroyed the first level floor.  Obviously, a lot of work was put into this home to restore it and  to find appropriate furnishings and decor.


The cradle is so detailed and amazing!


We enjoyed a story that was told as we viewed this room...  Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality.  When guests came to visit they were given sliced pineapple.  When the hosts were ready for the guests to leave, they'd leave a pineapple in their room as a way to say "we enjoyed your visit, now take this pineapple and leave".  lol


Here's another bedroom.  The story I found most interesting here was that the mattresses were filled with Spanish Moss.  It would get lumpy after sleeping on it and slaves would spend hours each day rolling out the lumps.  They used a roller that was part of the headboard.  I've often seen old beds with a round section that looked like a rolling pin.  I never knew why they were made that way, until now.
If anyone wanted to nap during the day, they needed to rest on a sofa or chair because of all the work it took to prepare mattresses each day for the next night.


I believe they called this the "Lavender Room".  The way it looks now is how a later owner had it.  She and her husband spent decades restoring the home. 


Another view of the "Lavender Room"...


A lovely view of a downstairs hall sitting area...


Here it is again later in our tour when another tour guide was sitting down for a little rest...


There was an in home office which was unusual for that time.
Offices were usually outside of the home.


There are chandeliers throughout the home.  Many of them had these fan-like shapes hanging from them.  I think they're so pretty!


A photo of my daughter standing next to one of the huge
columns that are all the way around the house.




There are big shutters to protect each of the doors and windows.


I like the swirly latches that keep them open...


Here's the back of the house...


There are rows of old oak trees that lead up to the back, just like the front...


They ring this bell every half hour for the start of a new tour...


This "little" garden is on one side of the house.
That's a garage in the distance.


Here's my sweet daughter taking a photo of the house from that "little" garden...

There are brick walkways around it.


Here's that garage...


Complete with old cars.  There's even a kitty sleeping on top!


After touring the main house, we went back toward the slave area to eat at the little restaurant beyond.  We stopped at one of the large kettles that had been used to cook down the sugar cane.  They're now being used as water features with water lilies growing in them.




This one looks like it's glowing!


Wow!


There were pretty flowers planted throughout the property.
I love these!  I had some in my wedding bouquet.


Gorgeous!






There are a LOT of dragonflies in the South!


There are Crape Myrtle trees in California but none like we saw in the South!
They're very big there!  And, very pretty!  I took this picture from the veranda...


There were pretty pink and white spots of lichen on the trunks and branches...


A creative/fun shot of some moss growing on the walkway...


The food in their restaurant was quite good.  They even had a gluten free menu.  My daughter was so happy about that.  I cheated a bit with gluten on the trip.  Luckily, it doesn't get to my stomach like it does hers.  But, I feel a lot better without it.  I'm back on track now!  I had shrimp and crab gumbo for lunch.  We shared some taster glasses of three different julep drinks.  I liked lemon the best but they were all way too sweet for both us.  Blech!  I posted this on Instagram while we were on the trip.


The restaurant had a map of the plantations along the river way back when.  All the
properties were long and skinny to give more people access to the river.  Interesting!


Here's some sugar cane growing on the property.  It's tall but still not as tall as it is in Maui!


Before leaving the area, we decided to go check out the levy and river.  There are
parking areas along it and trails that run along the top for walking and biking.


The river is on the left and the plantations are on the right.


Something that I found interesting is that the levies were there when the plantations were built.  Slaves...even women...worked to maintain them.

Here's the path on top...


The Mississippi River!...


Here's another view of the landscape.
There are many acres of sugar cane in Louisiana!


I took a few pictures from the car on the way back to Dansereau House.  Many of the roads we traveled on in Louisiana and Mississippi were lined with tall green trees and plants.
It's VERY green there!


And, many of the roads traveled over, along or through swamps and bayous.  Unfortunately, we never found a place to pull over to take a photo.  So, we have LOTS of blurry ones as we attempted to catch a good shot while we were traveling of the water that was on the side.  It was amazing to see how much water there is and how trees and so many plants were growing in it!  This is the best shot I got...


We also had a hard time finding a place to pull over to photograph one of those iconic trees dripping with Spanish Moss.  I got this photo from the car as well.  We learned that Spanish Moss grows here and there and can skip over areas.  They're not really sure why it grows on some trees and in some areas and not others.


I think it's interesting that they used it to fill mattresses in the past.


We went back to Dansereau House for one more night.  The next day, we headed north to Memphis!

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope ya'll are still enjoying posts about our road trip.  I've sure been enjoying all your comments!  We had a blast and saw so much.  I'm slowly catching up.
Only a few more places left to share.

10 comments:

Teresa Kasner said...

All I can say is "thank you". I lived in Louisiana for 5 years and never got to visit a plantation house. So, you've fulfilled a dream for me. Now I want to go back and visit! You got some GREAT photos and told a super good story. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

mamasmercantile said...

Although sad and disturbing the slave aspect of the plantation should never be hidden, forgotten, or ignored. If time allows us to forget what happened people suffered in vain. It can never be allowed to happen again. The post was beautiful, stunning pictures and really informative. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle said...

This is a beautiful place that I have been lucky enough to visit a couple of times. Also the Laura Plantation, just down the road, is just as beautiful. They really have detailed history there.

Delighted Hands said...

What a memorable place of beauty! Thanks so much for sharing the tour and history!

Lenora said...

We have that same re-published map of the plantations. It is hanging in the dining room. FYI - what you call a dragon fly, is also referred to as a mosquito hawk.

Susan said...

How fascinating about the Spanish moss in the mattresses! I BET they got lumpy... As usual, a beautiful, thoughtful and interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

Mereknits said...

What an amazing plantation. When I lived in Virginia for a short time after college I met a lovely girl who grew up in the area and had her rehearsal dinner at her very own home, a plantation with remnants of slave quarters still there. It was unbelievable to me that she grew up there with this as her norm, I grew up in Michigan so that was definitely not my norm. Thank you for taking us to see this amazing place, bad history and all.
Meredith

gilly said...

Thanks for sharing another interesting post - we visited Oak Alley too when we were in Louisiana a few years back, it's so beautiful but I also found the history of slavery quite upsetting. But it's lovely to look at your pics and remember our holiday too. We went canoeing in the swamps and bayous which was quite fascinating too.
Xx

September Violets said...

What an amazing tour you've given us. Have you considered making this your retirement job? You're very thorough and make the entire telling enjoyable. I've seen Oak Alley in someone's post last year and was just amazed at the trees. I think that would be the most interesting part for me. I too find the slavery history upsetting, but I think it's important to keep the history visible and not brush it away. We saw some performers at Greenfield Village in Michigan last summer who portrayed slave life to us through stories and songs. They told us how information was passed along through the slaves with songs. It was really interesting, and well done. The performance was outside a small plantation house that had been moved to the property. Nothing like Oak Alley ... very poor looking actually. I'm glad you got to see this plantation house with your daughter. Looking forward to more tours! Wendy x

Oak Alley Plantation Staff said...

Your photos are wonderful! -- Oak Alley Foundation staff