Oak Alley plantation is a beautiful antebellum mansion in Vacherie on the Mississippi river. It was a plantation built in 1837 and was originally established to grow sugar cane.
Oak Alley Plantation
It's a place steeped in history and has been designated a National Historic Landmark for its stunning architecture and landscaped gardens.
A distinguishing feature is its alley of oak trees, planted previously to the house being built. As you can see it frames the house beautifully. The garden is also renowned for the innovative way of growing pecan trees in the 1800's, a slave gardener known as Antoine spent many years crafting his knowledge and expertise to devise this.
The Oak Alley Of Trees
We went on a guided tour of the house which is included in the 20 dollar admission price. I would certainly recommend this. The insight into life in a plantation was incredible.
The house was owned by the Romans, and was a gift from Jacques Roman to his wife Celina. It was constructed primarily on slave labour and built as a sugar cane plantation. Sugar first became an attractive crop in the late 1700's and this area of Louisiana was known for its sugar producing plantations.
A valuable crop, sugar was also very arduous to produce, and the temperatures that slaves had to work in were very intense.
When Jacques died in 1848 of tuberculosis, his wife's heavy spending nearly bankrupted the estate and her son Henri tried to turn things around however 18 years later it was sold, and a succession of owners could not afford the upkeep. The tour guide told us, the building was run down and was invaded with cattle until it was bought by the Stewarts in 1925. After renovation they were the last people to live in it. Josephine Stewart left the historic house and grounds to the Oak Alley Foundation when she died in 1972, which opened them to the public.
The large fan above the table was moved by one of the slaves to keep the flies off the food
The clothes of the day
The three children in silhouette were three of the Roman's children who did not live until adulthood
Slavery At Oak Alley
The exhibition 'Slavery At Oak Alley", was interesting and thought provoking.
Located in the historic grounds, six cabins were reconstructed to gain a real insight into the day-to-day lives of the slaves living at Oak Alley. There were different quarters for different slaves, and a sick house among the cabins shown. A house slave had to look presentable at all time due to the personal work they carried out and thus had different clothes to those working on the sugar cane. Displays of clothes, religion, work and punishments all helped understand the conditions of the slaves and the harsh realities of life in the 1800's for those who were not free men or women of colour.
This video really gives an insight into the life of a slave
Due to the personal nature of a house slave they had to look presentable at all times
Filmed At Oak Alley
Oak Alley Plantation has been used in numerous films and TV series. The most notable of these being Primary Colours starring John Travolta and Interview With A Vampire, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.
You can see some of the splendour of Oak Alley in this video we created for our new travel blog Fly Drive Explore, which also covers Dunleith, another historic building in Natchez.
Oak Alley is within an hour of New Orleans and Baton Rouge and if you are ever in the area I thoroughly recommend a visit to see the beauty of the mansion, the splendour of the gardens and gain an insight into slavery in the 1800's. Recommended.