Of Homes and Plantations


Over the past few months I have been engrossed in research regarding the early architectural, land, social history of Louisiana (mainly Baton Rouge) and particularly the time spanning the early 19th century to right after the civil war.

I live a few blocks from Louisiana's River Road, which was the frontage of plantations and their counterpart great houses. I continued to pull up info on plantation homes that have either disappeared completely from their state of ruins..or were bulldozed to make room for a subdivision (subdivisions which are usually named after the plantation...so, for instance Arlington Plantation may become Arlington Estates. It upsets me, I won't lie. America seems to really enjoy tearing things down in lieu of preservation. We should look to Europe as an example to follow, in my humble opinion.

Long story short. I found a book on the neighborhood I currently live in, which yes, was built on the farming/planting land of a plantation/farm. The great house however, is still intact, and I believe owned by the same family. It is just a few blocks from the neighborhood.

It's a neighborhood established in the early 1920's and most houses were built in the 20's and 30's. It's a mix of Colonials, Spanish Missions, Bungalows, Neo- Classicals...a nice mix. Lots of Live Oaks..and tree lined streets.
A few photos from my walks:

This book has information on every house: the year it was built, by who, history of owners, any interesting tidbits etc.

Well, this is where the research crossed. I had been reading information on one of my favorite plantation homes, Belle Grove in White Castle, which is not far from here. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. It caught fire in the late 50's and the ruins were bulldozed some time after that. These are HABS photos from the 30's:


Well,according to my plantation book: Belle Grove furniture and house fixtures were pulled out and/or dismantled and auctioned off in 1925....and according to my neighborhood book the house two doors down from me, built in the early 30's has 2 of the marble Belle Grove mantels in the living room and dining room.

I am pretty sure there is a lack of Belle Grove photos, especially any showing its interiors intact...in fact, I think there are very few pictures of the interior at all.

I've been trying to get the nerve up to knock on the door..and ask to see the mantels...take a few pictures, but I am a chicken. Its just too amazing though..to pass up.



stuffed said...

About knocking on their door, it can't hurt to ask. I would be pleased if someone showed some interest in my mantels. :0)

Interesting post.

Anonymous said...

What is the name of the plantation book you found the old mansion in? Its BEAUTIFUL!!! thanks :)

day-lab Blog said...


Actually, I didn't find Belle Grove in a book (it's about 25 minutes from me, so I have been aware of it since I was a chikd). The pictures are not from a book but from the HABS Built in America website.

Some books I am currently reading (and recommend) that do have historical info on the Belle Grove Plantation are:

-Along the River Road: Past and Present on Louisiana's Historic Byways

-Ghostly Ruins: America's Forgotten Architecture

Also, there are some fantastic plantation photos in:

-Vestiges of Grandeur: The Plantation of Louisiana's River Road

-Plantation Homes of Louisiana and the Natchez Area

All of the above can be found at most libraries..or Amazon. :)

anna said...

i just happened to stumble upon an old HABS photo of Belle Grove in a "Buildings of Lousiana" book (i work in an extension of the national park service and we house an architecture division so we have a goldmine of sources) and instantly became haunted by it....I googled it and followed links and ended up here...

You should try and research Frances Benjamin Johnston's work. She was a socialite turned photographer who pretty much began HABS with her detailed photography of southern architecture.

While you're at it, you should see what you can find about Petite Versailles. It's my personal favorite that no longer exists. It was between Oak Alley and Laura Plantation in Vacherie, LA. It was quite spectacular from the little tidbits I've uncovered, but it burned down in 1920.

Wow, this was awfully long for a random person to send you, but I assure you that I'm just as big a fan of old houses and such as you are.

You should totally knock on that door. It's worth it for a picture of that mantel....

day-lab Blog said...


Thanks so much for the info, I will definitely look up FB Johnston's work. I adore HABS (lately I find myself looking through the photos there at least 3 to 4 times a week).

And yes, Petite Versailles is another one of my favorites!! We have been wanting to venture out, b/c apparently some of the things (bridges etc.) are still visible, although under tons of overgrowth. I think though prehaps it has now been fenced off perhaps here recently....

And yes, I am totally goingt o be contacting the lady 2 doors down soon about the mantels (I already talked to another neighbor about it who knows her). :)

Take care-


Anonymous said...

A great book to check out is called GHOSTS ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI by Clarence John Laughlin. He took pics of Belle Grove in the early '40s along with pics of other old plantation homes that are no longer standing. It is a great book. I found it in the library but check out Amazon for a newly printed addition. I wish someone would take his old pics and match them up with current pics of the same homes/locations to see how much time has changed. But check out this book if you love and admire these old homes of "gone with the wind."

Anonymous said...

Did you get those pictures of the mantels? You would be doing a great service to Belle Grove enthusiats if you did because as far as we know there are no known pictures of them. If you did or will, can you post them on your site?

tnracer said...

By all means, go knock on the door. They might not even know where their mantels came from. I like you am a dedicated plantation enthusiast. I have even visited Ashland-Belle Helene a couple times. It rips my insides out to think of all we have and let waste away. These incredible places will never come again. Better stop now, before I fall of my soap box. I am moving to GA within the next year, maybe I will come with you and knock on the door. No shyness here. Terry

Stephan said...

I, too, am a fan of antebellum architecture. I cannot imagine SEEING such a house as Belle Grove, much less LIVING in one! What a great loss to our history, not just by architectural standards, but also culturally. There are those who will say that those buildings do not deserve preservation because they were owned by slave owners. I vehemently disagree. The house did not have anything to do with the treatment of slaves. It simply was a magnificent example of the artistry which can occur when someone takes it upon themselves to create it. I know there are plenty of historial preservation societies & such organizations. I only hope they are (or can be) fully funded so that no more of these architectural "gems" are lost to posterity. Someone like Donald Trump or Bill Gates (who can truly afford it) would rebuild (as closely as possible) a new "Belle Grove" in Louisiana, so that our present (& future) generations may see how marvelous true Southern Architecture was. Just my opinion, but an interesting thought, to be sure!

Jason said...

I operate a website dedicated to Belle Grove (http://bellegrove.net) and a discussion group with 500+ folks who love antebellum homes in it. I have a web library with over 100 articles on the home. One of the members of our discussion group sent me your blog entry, so I thought I'd say hi. We've been wanting to get pictures of those mantels for a while now! :) Did anything come of that?

day-lab Blog said...

hey jason,
if you want to email me i will give you the contact info
of the couple who live in the house where the mantels
were last located (and last known to be residing in the garage) and will update you on what i know thus far.
daylabmail@yahoo. com

M.C.Miller said...

I hope this blog is still going.....I have written several books on "lost" architecture in Mississippi, published by University Press of Mississippi, and I'm working with my photographer now documenting ruins around the state. Louisiana is such a treasure trove of these sites, and I would love to get in touch with those of you who know the River Road area well. Thanks.
Mary Carol Miller
Greenwood MS

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful plantation complex, intentionally destroyed, was Uncle Sam. The main house was so well built dynamite had to be used. All of the outlying buildings, such as the overseer's house, were still in existence. It was featured in Harnett Kane's "Plantation Parade." Very sad.