February 14, 2012

Plantation Alley

The stretch of land between Natchez and New Orleans contains one of the country’s greatest concentrations of antebellum plantations.  Many of them are open to the public, and it would take a week or more to visit all of them.  We limited ourselves to one plantation today.

Just south of St. Francisville, Louisiana, is the Audubon State Historic Site, home of Oakley Plantation, which was constructed in 1806.  Oakley is an excellent example of colonial architecture with a West Indies influence.  The plantation, however, is best known for its association with noted artist and naturalist John James Audubon.

Oakley Plantation
The Library at Oakley
Audubon came to Oakley in 1821 when he was hired as a tutor for the daughter of the owners of Oakley.  Audubon was able to spend his afternoons in the woods, collecting and preparing his bird specimens, and then working on his paintings.  Audubon painted thirty-two of his Birds of America during his short stay at Oakley.  Quite a few of the prints that he completed here are on exhibit in the house and in the visitor center.  I’ve always loved Audubon’s work, and it was really interesting to see where some of them were painted.

I Don't Know If Audubon Ever Painted a Peacock
We’ve started to see daffodils blooming, as well as a few flowering trees.  Today at Oakley, a few azaleas were just beginning to bloom.  Spring should be beautiful here in a few weeks.

Azaleas Are Starting to Bloom
The drive between Natchez and Baton Rouge is lovely.  After leaving Baton Rouge, however, and turning onto the Great River Road, the landscape changes.  What used to be mile after mile of cotton and sugar cane plantations is now an industrial corridor of petrochemical refineries.  The Mississippi River is even hidden from view by the levies that are designed protect the inland area from flooding.
South of Natchez Is Mammy's Cupboard,
One of My Favorite Examples of Vernacular Roadside Architecture
South of Baton Rouge is the "Scenic" Great River Road,
Home of Petrochemical Refineries
From time to time a magnificent plantation house appears, but in too many cases the context has been lost.  Some plantation houses actually are on the grounds of a refinery.  If you can look beyond the industry, you can find a few architectural jewels.  Just don’t get the idea that the Great River Road is a pristine scenic drive.

We are actually spending the night at one of the lesser-known plantations, the Poche Plantation.  The house was built in 1870 by Judge Felix Pierre Poche, a prominent jurist and one of the founders of the American Bar Association.  The plantation now houses a museum and a bed-and-breakfast, and a campground has been added to the rear of the property.  It seems to be a fitting place to stay.  Happy Valentine's Day.

Poche Plantation
Sunset at the Plantation


  1. Oh flowers!! So good to see them. It's too bad about the refineries but I guess oil is now king, not cotton. Glad you found a pretty place to call it a night. LV

    1. LV, That says it so well. Oil is indeed king now. I love looking at flowers and am looking forward to seeing more as winter comes to a close. Sarah

  2. Great pictures! My daffs are just almost ready to pop! I love spring and longer days

    1. Thanks. Enjoy your daffodils. They are some of my favorites as well. I also love spring and happy we're traveling during this season. I have a feeling we will see familiar flowers, as well as some we seldom see (hopefully bluebonnets), as we continue the trip. Sarah