The day was dreary, which I guess was befitting the mood of finding oneself going back to the plantation.  I sound like a runaway, but I was actually running towards the  plantation, several in fact.  The south has many antebellum mansions restored to their former glory. It is often a favorite pastime of Americans to remember the “good ole days”. But whenever I hear people talking about the “good ole days”, I can’t help but lift an eyebrow and smile to myself knowing that my good ole days are right now along with everyone else that isn’t white… Anyway, slavery to black America is distant, but always kind of right there. It comes to our family reunions, like that neighbor who assumes you just forgot to send them an invitation.  Everyone is too polite to point out that the reunion is just for family…

So it was with a small kernel of wonderment that I started driving the River Road in Louisiana. It runs along the Mississippi River, hence the name, it was the center of commerce before train travel and the only way to move large shipments. At it’s height there were 70 miles of beautiful antebellum mansions; a total of 150+ plantations lining the river on both sides, I imagine it was something to see.

Evergreen Plantation

Evergreen Plantation

Built in the late 18th century and restored in the early part of the 19th century, Evergreen Plantation is one of the most intact plantation complexes. It was the first plantation that I visited. I didn’t enter, I stared at it from the gate and marveled at it’s size and beauty.  I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to live in a shack in the shadow of the “big house”, to be owned by the occupants and to watch them laze away the day while engaging in back breaking labor. It was a cold day, but I somehow felt the stifling heat and after standing there for a good 5 minutes just daydreaming I walked away thinking it wasn’t so beautiful after all…

San Francisco Plantation

The San Francisco Plantation, built in the mid-19th century,  was one of the most ornate, and remineded me of the painted ladies in San Francisco (CA), if there were creole style mansion instead of Victorians.

 

The Laura Plantation

The Laura Plantation

The Laura Plantation was built in the 1700’s and is also built in the Creole style. It has a raised foundation which is typical of the plantation homes in this area. The significance of the raised foundation was that the Mississippi River often flooded and in this way it wouldn’t ruin the home…but what about the slaves. I suppose they just got wet.

St Joseph's Plantation

St Joseph’s Plantation

St Joseph’s Plantation is one of the only fully intact and operational sugar plantations in the region, which means there are still people working on this plantation (I really need an emoji for this). I didn’t see anyone on the grounds, but was wondering if the people working on the plantation feel a little bit like slavery is breathing down their neck. I think that I would…

The Houmas House is built in the style of the Greek revival

The Houmas House was started in the  late 18th century, but not finished until the 1800’s and  is built in the style of the Greek revival popular in the area

The land occupied by the  Houmas House got it’s name from the Houmas Indians that were given a land grant for the area, it was later acquired by slaveowners who built the house and the local commerce in the area. It’s claim to fame was that it was the center of an empire. The owners of this plantation were the richest in the region and boasted ownership of over 800 slaves along with enough land to keep that many people busy. Valued at approximately $300 a piece in the early 1800’s, the human lifestock were worth more than $2400, which would translate to more than $100K in 2014. The original land would be worth millions…

Bocage Plantation is one of the few plantaions run as a bed and breakfast. It is kind of tempting to spend a night sleeping in the big house just to imagine the original owners spinning a few times in their grave.

Bocage Plantation is one of the few plantaions run as a bed and breakfast today. It is kind of tempting to think about spending a night sleeping in the big house just to imagine the original owners turning a few times in their grave.

 

The Indian Camp Plantation house was built in the 1850's and is in the Italianate style. It became a state run leprosarium in 1894. Now it is part of a military base...

The Indian Camp Plantation house was built in the 1850’s and is in the Italianate style. It became a state run leprosarium in 1894. Now it is part of a military base…

The Indian Camp Plantation was abandoned when the government took it over and turned it into a leprosarium. Leprosy is one of the oldest human diseases in written history.  The lepers were housed in the former slave cabins and the main house was where the staff lived (yet another place where I really need an emoji).

Finally, the crown jewel (at least in my opinion) of the River Road is Oak Alley Plantation, which will get it’s own post.

Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation

There were definitely quite a few plantations that I missed, but most are gone and in their place are manufacturing refineries. So even though the above pictures would make you think the drive up River Road was picturesque, most of it really looked like this:

It made me wonder how someone could not have seen the beauty of the plantations, even derelict and abandoned, and replaced them with this. But I guess not much stands in the way of industry.