See Rock City

See Rock City

Thursday, January 22, 2009

St. Francisville, LA

The Wolf-Schlesigner House, now the St. Francisville Inn
Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana

Several buildings with the district including:

The Georgian Revival courthouse,

Grace Episcopal Church,

And an Eastlake cottage Photographs from the National Register collection

The two streets of Royal and Prosperity comprise the heart of the area known as the St. Francisville Historic District. A high concentration of buildings dating from the early 19th century to the early 20th century line these streets, reflecting the history of the region. Such buildings as the 1905 Georgian Revival Courthouse, the c.1810 Greek Revival Camilla Leake Barrow House, and the 1909 brick Romanesque Revival style Bank of Commerce & Trust, are to be found in the heart of the commercial and government center of town. Extending down Ferdinand and Sewell Streets, the character of the St. Francisville Historic District changes. Here Bungalows, Eastlake or Renaissance Revival houses with pyramid roofs, commercial and public buildings and the later raised cottages are common. The cottages represent perhaps the last generation of a traditional Louisianan house type with Renaissance Revival influence.

Tourist Court

St. Francisville's history is closely related to the town of Bayou Sara, located at the conjunction of Bayou Sara Creek and the Mississippi River. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Bayou Sara grew into one of the most flourishing ports between Natchez and New Orleans. Due to frequent flooding, market places were established up on the bluff, where St. Francisville was eventually built. From 1825 to 1860 cotton continued to be a dominant commodity and vital to the commercial trade of St. Francisville. Grace Church, within the St. Francisville Historic District, was one of the finest examples of church architecture during of the time. Built in 1858, this church was as much a representation of the plantation owners' wealth as were the area's great plantation homes. After the Civil War, the number of small merchants rose, and St. Francisville received a number of newcomers, some Jewish, who established a synagogue (later turned into a Presbyterian Church) and were largely responsible for the construction of the Julius Freyhan High School in 1907. St. Francisville's ascendancy as a major railroad-shipping center for agricultural produce and cattle produced the turn-of-the-century wealth seen in many of its buildings.

The St. Francisville Historic District is located off US Rte. 61 in St.Francisville, overlooking the place where the Bayou Sara creek joins the Mississippi River. Many special events and tours are held throughout the year. Visit the West Feliciana Historical Society for exhibits, tourist information, brochuers and guidebooks. They are open 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday, 9:30am to 5:00pm Sundays, except holidays. For further information call 1-800-789-4221

Oakley Plantation House, Courtesy of the Capital Resource Conservation and Development Council

Kitchen and servants house located behind the main house,Photograph from the National Register collection

Arriving at Oakley Plantation on June 18, 1821, the young aspiring naturalist John James Audubon wrote: "The rich magnolias covered with fragrant blossoms, the holly, the beech, the tall yellow poplar, the hilly ground and even the red clay, all excited my admiration." Audubon's stay at Oakley lasted only four months, but he painted 32 of his famous bird pictures here and developed a love for the beautiful West Feliciana Parish. Mrs. Lucy Pirrie brought the young Audubon to Oakley as a tutor for her daughter, Eliza. The arrangement required that Audubon spend half his time teaching drawing to Eliza, but he was otherwise free to roam the woods and work on his naturalistic paintings. For this Audubon was to receive 60 dollars a month plus room and board for himself and his 13-year-old pupil assistant, John Mason. Audubon returned at a later date to join his wife, then teaching there, and his son. He wrote, "Numerous pupils desired lessons in music, French and drawing. . .the dancing speculation fetched two thousand dollars; and with this capital and my wife's savings I was now able to foresee a successful issue to my great ornithological work." This work was later to become Audubon's famous Birds of America.

Oakley Salon

Oakley Dining Room

Oakley Plantation House is located in the Audubon Memorial State Park in West Feliciana Parish. Construction on the house began in 1799, when Ruffin Gray, a successful planter from Natachez, Mississippi, moved here on land purchased from the Spanish authorities. Gray died before the house was completed, and his widow Lucy Alston oversaw its completion. She later married James Pierre of Scotland. Eliza, the daughter of James Pierre and Lucy, was born here in 1805, and it was her future education that introduced Audubon to the Felicianas. Oakley's interior has been restored to the Federal period style (1790-1830), reflecting its appearance when Audubon stayed here. The three-story home expresses the colonial architecture adapted to the geographical location. Oakley Plantation House contains 17 rooms, with front and side entrances leading to the landscaped grounds, which are shaded by oak and ancient crape myrtle trees.

Oakley Plantation House, within Audubon Memorial Park, is located 41/2 miles southeast of St. Francisville on State Hwy. 965., off US Hwy. 61. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, there is a fee for adults, but children under 13 and seniors are free. Call 225-635-3739

"The rich magnolias covered with fragrant blossoms, the holly, the beech, the tall yellow poplar, the hilly ground and even the red clay, all excited my admiration. Such an entire change in the fall of nature in so short a time seems almost supernatural, and surrounded once more by numberless warblers and thrushes, I enjoyed the scene."

So reads the journal of John James Audubon as he recorded his arrival in 1821 at Oakley Plantation.

This lush natural setting, with a variety of birds singing throughout the 100-acre forest, still inspires visitors. In these peaceful environs, it is easy to imagine the artist filling his sketch pad with notes and drawings for his famous series of bird illustrations.

Audubon came upriver from New Orleans to do more than paint pictures. He had been hired to teach drawing to Miss Eliza Pirrie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Pirrie, owners of Oakley. His teacher-artist arrangement was short-lived due to a misunderstanding with Mrs. Pirrie. Only four months after his arrival, Audubon returned to New Orleans. Although there is no record of his success in teaching Miss Pirrie to draw, in his personal endeavors he completed or began 32 bird paintings while at Oakley.

Oakley House

The tall, airy house where John James Audubon stayed is a splendid example of colonial architecture adapted to its climate. Built circa 1806, Oakley predates the relatively heavy details of classic revival in Southern plantation homes and claims distinction for its beautiful simplicity. The rooms of Oakley have been restored in the style of the late Federal Period (1790-1830), reflecting their appearance when Audubon stayed there.

A West Indies influence can be seen in the jalousied galleries which allow cool breezes to drift through the rooms while keeping out rain and the glare of the sun. Adam mantels, delicate decoration of the exterior gallery stairs and a simple cornice frieze are Oakley's only ornaments. Simple and dignified by its unusual height, the building seems a suitable part of its beautiful forest setting. In 1973, Oakley House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation for significant historic sites.

Detached Kitchen

The large, detached plantation kitchen, typical of the period, was reconstructed on the old foundations, around the original chimney. The kitchen building also contains a weaving room and an ironing/wash room.

Inside Slave Cabin

Two slave cabins, located a short distance from the rear of the house, give a glimpse into the laborers' way of life on the plantation. These cabins provide the backdrop for programs highlighting the impact of African Americans in developing early America.

Restored formal and kitchen gardens adjacent to the house demonstrate the early Louisiana plantation owners' tendency to re-create formal beauty in their wilderness environment.

The Great House of Rosedown Plantation, as seen from the oak allee, Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection

View of Rosedown Plantation gardens, Photo from National Historic Landmarks collection

Rosedown Plantation, encompassing 374 acres in St. Francisville, is one of the most intact, documented examples of a domestic plantation complex in the South. It embodies the lifestyle of the antebellum South's wealthiest planters in a way very few other surviving properties can. The plantation's landscape is a laboratory for the study and interpretation of the cultural traditions of slavery, the life style of the gentry and scientific experiments in agriculture and horticulture. Rosedown was established in the 1830s by Daniel and Martha Barrow Turnbull, and remained in the hands of their descendants until the 1950s.

At its height, the plantation encompassed 3,455 acres, and included the typical components of cotton plantations of the mid-antebellum period in the South--agricultural acreage planted with the cash crop, fields of fodder crops, pastureland for cattle, stables for horses, yards and pens for poultry and other farm animals, the quarters of enslaved Africans (where they typically had their own individual garden plots), a kitchen garden, an orchard, and the pleasure, or ornamental, gardens adjacent to the main plantation house, or the "Great House." Over the years the acreage was subdivided and although the working portions of the plantation have vanished, both the house and the gardens survive. The c.1835 Federal-Greek revival style great house, complete with Grecian style wings c.1845, is at the head of a 660-foot long oak allee. It is typical of the small minority of great houses built by the South's wealthiest planters. Near the great house are several dependencies, most notably three latticed summerhouses and a Greek temple style doctor's office.

What distinguishes the landscape of Rosedown are its pleasure gardens, notable for their size, sophistication and refined plant collections. The gardens were the passion of Martha Turnbull and her garden diary provides invaluable insight into the story of the garden's planting and management. She recorded her first entry in 1836 and her last in 1895, a year before her death at the age of 87. Eighteen acres of ornamental pleasure gardens illustrate a combination of the axiality of the Baroque style and the winding paths of the picturesque tradition. Many of the plants introduced by Martha survive today, and include one of the earliest collections of camellias in the Deep South. She also relied heavily on plants imported from the Orient, such as cryptomeria, azaleas and crape myrtles. Due to the access available to Martha's life story through her own words, Rosedown reminds us of the central place that ornamental horticulture held in the lives of many people living in the plantation South during the antebellum period and its aftermath.

Rosedown's labor intensive gardens were made possible by an enslaved African workforce. The 1860 census indicated that 145 slaves were living in 25 houses on the plantation (an average of six people per house). The succession of Daniel Turnball after his death in 1862 indicates the occupations of only a few--carpernters, driver, blacksmith, cooks, carriage driver, house servant and washer woman. None are identified as gardeners, but Martha names individual slaves frequently in her diary, indicating that they were essential in the planting and maintence of the gardens. On-going archaeological investigations are being conducted to learn more about the lives of the African Americans who lived on the plantation.

Rosedown Plantation, now owned by the State of Louisiana, is located at 12501 La. Hwy. 10 in West Feliciana Parish. Fortunately, the house was not damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but please check with them directly to confirm the current hours of operation. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily; closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's day. Guided tours of the main house are provided on the hour from 10:00am to 4:00pm. There is a fee for admission. For more information call 1-888-376-1867.

Butler--Greenwood Plantation, where 18th-century English gardens greet the visitor,Courtesy of Capital Resource Conservation and Development Council

Standing as a fine example of an antebellum plantation house, Butler- Greenwood Plantation consists of 44 acres and a plantation complex including the plantation house, a gazebo, and a rear brick kitchen. The beauty of Greenwood lies in the landscape architecture surrounding this historic plantation home, and the side gardens flanking the house remain as one of the few extant examples of antebellum garden design in West Feliciana Parish. English and French stylistic garden features adapted to the Louisianan climate, as well as a sundial, summer house, garden gate and urns are the notable unique features of the Butler-Greenwood grounds. The north side garden is in the form of a geometric parterre, an ornamental garden with paths between the beds, reminiscent of the style developed in French gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries. In contrast to the formal geometric pattern of these sunken side gardens, the entrance of Greenwood, with its naturalized, free-flowing manner, is derived from the design of 18th-century English gardens.

In 1770, a physician named Samuel Flower came to the Baton Rouge area from Reading, Pennsylvania, and within a decade purchased the land where he would build Greenwood. In 1810 a fire destroyed the original Greenwood, but Flower built a larger house on the site, which is the present Butler-Greenwood Plantation home. Samuel Flower died in 1813, and the title of Greenwood eventually passed to his daughter, Harriet, who married Judge George Mathews in 1809. Mathews was an important figure in the early judicial history of the state, being one of the presiding judges of the Louisiana Supreme Court in its early phase. By 1860, Harriet and her son, Charles Mathews, were running a plantation of 1,400 acres worked by 96 African-American slaves living in 18 dwellings. After Harriet's death in 1873, the management of the estate fell on Charles's wife, Penelope. The history of Greenwood Plantation provides an excellent illustration of how southern women managed great southern plantations. The house possesses a degree of architectural significance despite the loss of its historic three-story side wing.

The Butler-Greenwood Plantation is located on 8345 US Hwy 61, 2 ½ miles north of St. Francisville The house features bed and breakfast accommodations and guide tours Monday-Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm for which there is a fee. Please call 225-635-6312 for further information.

Statue within the Afton Villa Gardens, Courtesy of the Capital Resource Conservation and Development Council

Several views of the Afton Villa Gardens:

Showing the pond,

Azaleas and the boxwood parterre, Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana

Begun in 1849 and restored in 1915, the terraced garden of Afton Villa stands as an outstanding example of antebellum landscape architecture. The 140 acres of rolling countryside which house the gardens include a mile and a half driveway enveloped by an alley of live oaks. The landscaping effects at Afton Villa were achieved by taking advantage of the natural contours of the property. Like many traditional formal southern gardens, Afton Villa has terraces which descend in stages away from the house. Afton Villa Gardens' most typical traditional features are its maze and its parterre garden. Both retain their original designs, although time has allowed for some alterations. A sundial now marks the spot where a small gazebo once stood. Next to the parterre garden is the Barrow Family Cemetery. The centerpiece of the cemetery is a large marble Tuscan obelisk, erected by the United States Congress in memorial to Senator Alexander Barrow upon his death. The cemetery is the only feature of the present garden which predates 1849, dating to the time of the first plantation on the site in the late 18th century. A large hedge surrounds the cemetery, and an artificial pond and lake dot the grounds.

The history of Afton Villa is entwined with that of the Barrows, one of the richest and most prominent families in antebellum Louisiana. Bartholomew Barrow purchased the land in 1820 from his brother William, and in 1839 he sold it to his son, David. David would eventually carve out a thriving plantation empire of some 2,000 to 3,000 acres, which would make him, according to the 1860 census, the wealthiest planter in West Feliciana Parish. In 1849, he and his second wife, Susan A. Woolfolk, built around an existing small house to create an imposing Gothic Revival villa of some 40 rooms, and added the gardens. David Barrow died in 1874 and his wife continued to live at Afton Villa until 1876, when she sold the estate. The house was destroyed by fire in 1963. Afton Villa Gardens is popularly known for the azaleas which grow there. One particular strain, known as the Pride of Afton or Afton Villa Red, was developed at the gardens.

The Afton Villa Gardens are located at 9247 North US Hwy. 61. The Gardens are open for self-guided tours 9:00am to 4:30pm March 1-July 1 and October 1-December 1. There is a fee for admission. Call 225-635-6773.

Catalpa Plantation House, surrounded by large oak trees, Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana

Side view of Catalpa, Photograph from National Register collection

Catalpa Plantation is one of numerous late Victorian cottages found across Louisiana, significant for the beautiful gardens that surround it. The oak trees lining the grounds were planted in 1814, and Catalpa's oak alley is thought to be the only one in Louisiana which has an elliptical shape. Primarily a cotton plantation in the antebellum period, Catalpa's grounds were devastated during the Civil War, and the plantation house burned. Mr. Fort, the owner, died during the Civil War. In 1885, his son, William J. Fort, rebuilt Catalpa and it is this house that still stands. Although it is often referred to as a "Victorian cottage," the house is in fact quite large. It has a two room deep main block with a central hall and a large rear wing with a central hall of its own. Double doors separate the two central halls. The rooms are large, and finished with standard late-19th century details. Catalpa Plantation House is important for its false marbled mantels. During the late-19th century manufactured cast-iron and slate mantels were sometimes given a marble treatment. This work was done by hand, but at the factory rather than on-site. The mantels at Catalpa are important as examples of Victorian art because they show the Victorian fondness for elaborately contrived effects.

The slave cabin behind the Catalpa Plantation was built of pit-sawn timber. Originally the cottage had no gallery, but a new roof and a gallery were added around 1900. North-northeast of the house is a sizable pond that, according to Fort family history, dates from the antebellum period. The pond is one of the surviving elements of what was once an extensive landscaped garden. Catalpa's alley is one of a limited number of plantation oak alleys which survive across the state. The exact date of the oak alley is uncertain, while family history indicates that it dates from the early 19th century, the scale of the trees indicates that the alley has stood for about 120 years.

Catalpa is located at 9508 US Hwy. 61, 5 miles north of St. Francisville. The house is open daily for tours 1:00pm to 4:00pm, but closed from December 15-January 31. There is a fee for admission. Call 225-635-3372 for further information.

Cottage Plantation house, built with Doric columns, Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana

Cottage Plantation, two buildings meet in "L" shape, Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana

The Cottage Plantation House was built from 1795 to 1859 and consists of three buildings joined together. The architecture reflects both Spanish and English influence. Built of virgin cypress, except the massive sills, the core of the house dates from the Spanish colonial era, beginning in 1795. Completed in 1859, the Cottage Plantation consisted of two buildings in the form of an "L," with the original house as part of the foot of the L. Standing complete as it did in antebellum days, the Cottage Plantation has in addition to the plantation home the old school house, outside kitchen, milk house, carriage house, barn, three slave houses, and other outbuildings. Every room was originally furnished with a hand carved fireplace mantle, some of extreme simplicity and others elaborate with fluted Doric columns and panels in a sunburst design.

Judge Thomas Butler (1785-1847) acquired the Cottage Plantation around 1800. Judge Butler was the first Criminal Court judge of the Florida Parishes and a member of Congress. Moving to the Mississippi Territory c.1807, after practicing law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he became a Captain of a calvary troop in the Mississippi Territory Militia in 1810. Appointed Parish Judge in 1812 and Judge of the Third District in 1813 by Governor Clairborne of Louisiana, he was elected to the Fifteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas B. Robertson. Re-elected to the Sixteenth Congress, he served until March 3, 1821. Butler was the owner of 12 sugar and cotton plantations, president of the board of trustees of the Louisiana College in Jackson, and a member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati. He died in St.Louis, Missouri, on August 27, 1848, and is interned on his plantation, "The Cottage."

The Cottage Plantation is located at 10528 Cottage Ln., off US Hwy 61, six miles north of St. Francisville, on the east side of the road. The Cottage offers bed and breakfast accommodations and tours daily from 9:00am to 4:30pm, there is a fee for admission. Closed on major holidays.

The Myrtles Plantation, circa 1796

"One of America's Most Haunted Homes"

212 year old National Register home build by General David Bradford, also known as "Whiskey Dave".

Guided History and Mystery Tours offered daily.

Full Service Restaurant - Casual or elegant dining in The Carriage House Restaurant.

11 Bed and Breakfast Rooms.

Wedding and reception facilities.

Experience antebellum spendor in "One of America's Most Haunted Homes".

The Myrtles Plantation, circa 1796, invites you to step into the past to experience antebellum spendor. You will see fine antiques and architectural treasures of the South and discover why They Myrtles has been called one of "America's Most Haunted Homes".

The Myrtles has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Gourmet, Veranda, Travel and Leisure, Country Inns, Colonial Homes, Delta SKY and on the Oprah Show, A & E, the History Channel, The Travel Channel, The Learning Channel, National Geographic Explorer, and GOOD MORNING AMERICA. It was also featured in The Haunting of Louisiana.

The history of the South will always provide us with tales of romance and mystery. The saga of the Antebellum South and a lifestyle that will never be forgotten lives on at this grand mansion. A first glimpse of the mansion with its magnificent double dormers and lacy grillwork of the 120-foot veranda envelopes one with a complete sense of peace and tranquility.

Historical tours are conducted daily from 9am - 5pm.

Mystery tours are conducted on Friday and Saturday evenings.

All bed and breadfast reservations include a complimentary tour of this National History Register home filled with hand painted stained glass, open pierced plaster frieze work, Aubusson tapestries, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, Carrera marble mantles and gold leafed French furnishings. Guided tours include the history, the architectural significance, and the enchanting stories of mystery and intrigue.

Relax in the giant rockers on the 120-foot verandah or stroll through the lush ten acres filled with majestic live oaks. The 5000 square foot old brick courtyard is the perfect place to unwind before enjoying a delicious candlelight dinner at The Carriage House Restaurant.

As John James Audubon did, experience St. Francisville ~ a Treasure to Discover.

a view from the front verandah...

a view of a pink crepe myrtle on the courtyard...

The ghost of Chloe, "hanging" around, harmlessly haunting tourists...

Room Rates and Descriptions

We would like to thank you for your interest in The Myrtles Plantation. We operate year round as a full service Bed & Breakfast. Below you will find a brief description of each room along with the current rates. All rates are based stricktly on double occupancy and include a continental breakfast and the historical tour of the home. There will be an 11% tax added to the total cost of all overnight stays.

Guest room on the 1st floor of the home:

We have one overnight guest room on the 1st floor of the home: The General David Bradford Suite has one large bedroom with a four-poster full size bed and a private sitting room. Two verandahs adjoin the suite. This room has a private bath with a shower. $230.00 per night

Guest Rooms located upstairs in the main house:

The Judge Clarke Woodruff Suite is private from the rest of the home. It is the only room located on that side of the upstairs of the home. It has a large bedroom with a sitting area and a four-poster queen size bed. this room has a private bath with a tub. $230.00 per night

The Fannie Williams Room has a double bed, private bath with a shower that is located in the hallway just a few steps away from the room. $175.00 per night

The Ruffin-Stirling Room has a large four-poster queen size bed, private bath with a shower also located a few steps away from the room, in the hallway. $175.00 per night

The William Winters Room has a four-poster queen size bed and private bath with a tub in the room. $200.00 per night

The John W. Leake Room has a four-poster double bed and a private bath with a shower in the room. $200.00 per night

Guest Rooms located on the grounds, but not in the main house:

The Caretaker's Cottage is a private fenced cottage with a queen size bed and private bath and shower. It has a front porch and is located behind The General Bradford House. $170.00 per night

Located behind the home are four Garden Rooms:

The Azalea, Camellia, Magnolia, and Oleander Rooms each has a queen size handmade four-poster cypress bed and a private bath. Each bath has an antique Chippendale claw-foot tub. $115.00 per night

Guests under 21 must be accompanied by a responsible person over the age of 21.

Thank You.

St. Francisville, Louisiana
7747 U.S. Highway 61
P.O. Box 1100
St. Francisville, Louisiana 70775
John & Teeta Moss, Proprietors
PHONE 225.635.6277
Fax 225.635.5837

Camellias in the Country

February 6 & 7, 2009


By Anne Butler

Chef John Folse

Louisiana’s beloved culinary ambassador to the world, John Folse, has developed an international reputation as a fabulous chef as well as the brilliant head of a burgeoning empire of food processing plants, catering companies, dairies, product suppliers, cookbooks and book publishers, and just about everything else his fertile imagination can conceive. The man must never sleep. But as if that were not enough, Chef Folse is also one of the most generous professionals in the field, freely offering his time and talents and facilities for just about every charitable non-profit cause there is.

Consequently, when the little Feliciana Nature Society contacted him to help with its Camellias in the Country festival in St. Francisville the first weekend in February 2009, he was already inclined to offer assistance. And then they made him an offer he simply could not refuse, combining as it did his incredible culinary talents with his great fascination with history and heritage as well as a growing interest in horticulture.

The Camellia Festival is sponsored each year by the little Feliciana Nature Society, which also conceived and hosts the annual Audubon BirdFest and Feliciana Hummingbird Festival. Just as the BirdFest is an ideal activity in the area most treasured by artist John James Audubon when he painted a large number of his Birds of America there in the early 1820s, so the Camellia Festival is particularly suited for the area to which the 1831 Encylopedia Americana referred as “the garden of Louisiana.”

Garden Walk at Rosedown

And so it was, for once the great indigo and cotton plantations of this English section of Louisiana had been established, attention turned from the practical to the merely pleasing and the early manor houses were quickly surrounded by formal gardens laid out in orderly bordered beds and patterned parterres, protected from roaming livestock by picket fences and presided over by classical marble statues. Great allees of live oaks were planted, their arched canopies soon to provide much-needed shade, and lattice-sided summer houses offered cool quiet retreats.

The glorious antebellum gardens of the St. Francisville area, many inspired by the great plantings of Europe, combined the plantation mistress’s passion for ornamental plants with a fortuitious climate, rich soil and unlimited labor. From the surrounding woods were transplanted ferns, trilliums and oak-leaf hydrangea, violets, dogwood and wild plum trees. But the pride of the gardens were the camellias, and these had to be imported.

These colorful natives of the Far East were initially carried to other lands by missionaries and early medical men after trade with the Orient was opened in the early1500s by the Portuguese and their Black Ships. The trading companies dealing in spices, silks, porcelains and other treasures all had medical officers who became the first to study native plants of the Far East, initially for their medical propensities. A camellia japonica specimen collected in China in 1677 by a physician with the East India Company introduced this botanical novelty to England. By the close of the 18th century, the first camellias had been brought overseas to the United States.

'Docteur Pierre Gausset's Recipe'

From a nursery in New York, young Martha Turnbull first ordered camellias to grace the gardens at Rosedown Plantation, plantings inspired by those seen on her wedding trip to the Continent in 1835. Her gardens would eventually expand to 28 acres of formal beds surrounding the grand Greek Revival house, and her gardening diaries spanning some 60 years of love and labor proved invaluable in the careful restoration of the Rosedown grounds and gardens. Daily she recorded her continual efforts, especially to propagate the hundreds of camellias, with advice on their proper care. “Japonicas must have water over the leaves once a week and plenty of water otherwise during the whole summer; half sand and woods-earth and a little cow manure when first potted, and engraft early in the spring, and they must be well shaded in the whole summer.”

From the mistress of Catalpa Plantation Martha Turnbull borrowed some helpful tips: “Mrs. Fort puts one gallon Guano to a barrel of water to water her plants,” and it was no wonder the camellias and hydrangeas at Catalpa flourished as well. At Butler Greenwood Plantation hundreds of camellias were being ordered from eastern nurseries as well to thrive in the formal gardens around the lovely summer house, while at Afton Villa gardens the camellias held their own with the famed Pride of Afton azaleas lining the magnificent oak avenue.

Every plantation had its grove of camellias, and many of the townhouses in St. Francisville as well. A number of these plantations and gardens today are open to the public for tours, and there is no lovelier time of year to visit than the cooler months when the camellias are in full bloom. The Feliciana Nature Society began the Camellias in the Country festival to encourage visitors to do just that, but in 2009 an extra added attraction promises to greatly enhance the enjoyment, for this year visitors can not only see the camellias, they can actually TASTE them, thanks to Chef John Folse and the lucky visitation by a distinguished French physician to one of the local plantation Bed & Breakfasts.

Docteur Pierre Gausset, “Ancien Externe des Hopitaux de Paris,” enjoyed the hospitality of the Bed & Breakfast at Butler Greenwood Plantation in early 2008 and admired the more than 150 ancient camellias blooming in the formal and sunken gardens there. Had the owner ever tasted, he wondered, Vin de Camelia? He highly recommended it. In fact, he happened to have the recipe and would be happy to share it, since the St. Francisville area obviously had plentiful ingredients. Written in French, of course, the recipe is a combination of white or red wine, eau de vie de fruits, camellia blossoms, sugar and vanilla, all allowed to rest for 20 days as the wine absorbs the aroma of the camellia blossoms before bottling.

Butler Greenwood Lawn

Chef John Folse, of course, rose to the challenge and enthusiastically set about making a few test batches, pronouncing them superb. Not only that, but he also revealed ancient recipes for ratifies and bounces, cordials and fruit wines that had traditionally been made in the area. While most of the good grape wines and clarets were shipped to Louisiana in great wooden casks and wicker-covered demijohns from Europe in antebellum days, every little local fruit and berry that would ferment was turned into some sort of enjoyable beverage, from figs and plums to wild cherries and dewberries, muscadines and peaches. And the newly popular aromatherapy, far from being a modern invention, Chef Folse explains is also as old as the hills, for every plantation mistress knew how to make scented waters---rosewater, orange blossom water---for perfuming the air and body. Camellia wine is such an aromatic infusion. The flowering plants of the nineteenth century gardens were rarely merely ornamental; they had other uses as well, for seasonings and preservatives, also for medicinal purposes. The most strongly scented were used to mask less pleasant odors, such as during wakes and funerals.

Chef Folse unveils his Camellia Wine, produced from camellia blossoms from St. Francisville gardens, at a presentation on Friday, February 6, at 6 p.m. at the historic Audubon Market Hall on Royal Street in St. Francisville. Guests will have the opportunity to sample the wine, perhaps even purchase some, and Chef Folse will also autograph his remarkable cookbooks for interested visitors at the wine and cheese reception following his presentation.

The fifth annual Camellias in the Country program continues on Saturday, February 7, at Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site. Site manager Patricia Aleshire will lead a workshop on “Knowing and Growing Camellias in the Deep South” at the visitor center beginning at 9 a.m. Lunch at Audubon CafĂ© will be followed by a guided walking tour of Rosedown’s extensive formal gardens, where participants will enjoy seeing outstanding examples of both heirloom and contemporary japonicas. The gardens at Rosedown are simply spectacular this time of year.

Camellia at Catalpa

A $25 registration fee covers the Chef Folse presentation and reception Friday evening as well as the Saturday programs and lunch. Admission for the Friday reception alone is $10, and advance reservations are highly recommended; telephone 800-488-6502 or 225-635-3110 for information and reservations, or visit online or All proceeds benefit the Feliciana Nature Society and support its commendable efforts to encourage appreciation and preservation of the natural resources of the area.

The St. Francisville area features a number of splendidly restored plantation homes open for tours daily: The Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, The Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. The area’s two state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, offer fascinating living-history demonstrations every weekend to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs. The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, horseback riding with rental mounts from Cross Creek Stables. There are some unique shops, many in restored historic structures, and some fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area as well as some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts for overnight stays, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district. For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit or (our Festival Website)

Phone: 800-488-6502
Phone: 225-635-6502
Fax: 225-635-6421

Centenary State Historic Site

3522 College St., Jackson, LA 70748
225-634-7925 or 888-677-2364 toll free


Directions: From Baton Rouge, take I-10 North to US 61, go north on US 61 toward St. Francisville. Turn right onto LA 68; turn left onto Hwy. 10. From St. Francisville, simply go east on LA 10 to the town of Jackson; turn left at the intersection of LA 10 and East College to reach Centenary. GPS Coordinates: N 30.84055; W 91.21215.

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Guided tours are offered daily.

Medical Exhibits

Entrance Fees: $2 per person; free for seniors (62 and over) and for children age 12 and under. Groups are asked to call in advance.

West Wing Dorm

Originally opened as the College of Louisiana in 1826, the school occupied an old courthouse and other buildings in the town of Jackson. The college steadily grew and two dormitories were built on new property in 1832 and 1837. The West Wing, the latter of these two buildings, remains today.

After less than 20 years, the College of Louisiana closed because of declining enrollment. Suffering similar problems was the Methodist/Episcopal-operated Centenary College at Brandon Springs, Mississippi (established in 1839).

Centenary then moved to the vacant campus of the College of Louisiana. Since the all-male student bodies of the two institutions were effectively combined, the school succeeded with the name Centenary College of Louisiana now owned and operated by the Methodist/Episcopal Church South. At its peak, shortly before the Civil War, some 250students and 11 faculty members occupied the campus.

Professor House Salon

The Civil War had a profound effect on Centenary College, as it did on most Southern colleges. The school closed for the duration of the war and its buildings were used by both Confederate and Union troops. The dormitories became hospital space in October 1862 and during the seige of Port Hudson in 1863 and Union troops used the Main Academic Building as an area headquarters.

Centenary College reopened after the war, but with repairs needed and low enrollment, it was unable to regain its former prosperity. In 1908, searching for a wider student population base, Centenary College moved to Shreveport, where it remains today. The Main Academic Building and the East Wing dormitory were demolished in the 1930s; only the West Wing and a professor's house still stand.

Dormitory Room

In 1979 Centenary State Historic Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation for significant historic sites.

Port Hudson State Historic Site

Port Hudson Map

236 Hwy. 61, Jackson, LA 70748
225-654-3775 or 888-677-3400 toll free


Directions: The site is located on US 61 in East Feliciana Parish, about 25 minutes north of Baton Rouge and 10 minutes south of historic St. Francisville. GPS Coordinates: N 30.69255; W 91.26922.

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Guided tours are offered daily.

Entrance Fees: $2 per person; free for seniors (62 and over) and for children age 12 and under. Groups are asked to call in advance.

Complete listing of available facilities and activities

Trails at Port Hudson State Historic Site:

One 6-mile hiking trail

When New Orleans fell to Federal troops in late April 1862, Confederate control of the Mississippi was in jeopardy. The Confederate army had already fortified the river bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi, but it needed another series of river batteries below the mouth of the Red River. The Red River was the primary route for the shipment of supplies from Texas to the heartland of the Confederacy.

Tower View

The bluffs near the small town of Port Hudson represented a perfect site for the river batteries. These bluffs were the first high ground upstream from Baton Rouge and overlooked a severe bend in the river. This bend presented an additional obstacle for Union warships.


The siege of Port Hudson began on May 23, 1863. Roughly 30,000 Union troops, under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, were pitted against 6,800 Confederates, under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner. The ensuing battles constituted some of the bloodiest and most severe fighting in the entire Civil War.

Re-Enactment Cannon

As the siege continued, the Confederates nearly exhausted their ammunition and were reduced to eating mules, horses and rats. When word reached Gardner that Vicksburg had surrendered, he realized that his situation was hopeless and nothing could be gained by continuing the defense of Port Hudson. Surrender terms were negotiated, and on July 9, 1863, after 48 days and thousands of casualties, the Union army entered Port Hudson. The siege became the longest in American military history.

Prior to one of the most intense attacks by the Union soldiers, on May 27, a bold experiment was decided upon. Two African-American regiments were chosen to participate in the fight. The First and Third Louisiana Native Guards proved their worth by pressing an attack against a well-fortified Confederate position. After the siege, the garrison at Port Hudson became a recruiting center for African-American troops.

In 1974, the Port Hudson battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It joined a select group of properties which have been recognized for their importance in American History. Port Hudson State Historic Site hosts several living history events. Visitors can watch authentically costumed interpreters demonstrate Civil War weapons and equipment.

Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site:

12501 Highway 10, St. Francisville, LA 70775
225-635-3332 or 888-376-1867


Directions: The site is located in West Feliciana Parish, in St. Francisville on La. 10. From Baton Rouge, follow US 61 north to La. 10, then turn right and head east one-quarter mile to the front gate. GPS Coordinates: N 30.79081; W 91.37270.

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Guided tours are offered on the hour, with the final tour beginning at 4 p.m.

Entrance Fees: Admission prices are $10 for adults (age 18 from 61); $8 for senior citizens (age 62 and over); and $4 for students (age 6 through 17). Children, age 5 and under, will be admitted free.

Rosedown Plantation is located in the West Feliciana Parish community of St. Francisville along one of the most historic corridors in South Louisiana. The historic presence of the River created deep soil deposits to form uplands that became, in the days of the cotton boom, extremely productive and valuable. In addition to the natural flats, creeks draining to the River created some expanses of rugged, heavily treed terrain that became profitable as timberland.

Suite Bedroom

The parents of Daniel and Martha (Barrow) Turnbull achieved high social status in West Feliciana through their immense cotton operations, and Daniel Turnbull himself was known before the Civil War as one of the richest men in the nation. The land that became Rosedown Plantation, named for a play that the Turnbulls saw on their honeymoon, was assembled not by the then-usual method of Spanish Land Grants, but in a group of seven purchases made by Daniel Turnbull from the 1820s through the 1840s. At its largest, Rosedown Plantation comprised approximately 3,455 acres, the majority of which was planted in cotton.

Child's Bedroom

Daniel and Martha Turnbull began construction on the main house at Rosedown in 1834, completing it by May the following year. The home was furnished with the finest pieces available, most imported from the North and from Europe. A surprising amount of the furnishings purchased by the Turnbulls remained with the house during the years after the Civil War and many original pieces are still on display at Rosedown.

The gardens were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life. The Turnbulls’ honeymoon in Europe included great formal gardens of France and Italy, an influence seen in Martha's activities at Rosedown. The gardens grew out from the house over a span of many decades, to cover approximately 28 acres. In the 19th century, Rosedown was one of the few privately maintained formal gardens in the United States.

Dining Room

The contribution of slave labor to the construction and upkeep of the plantation, as well as agricultural prosperity and wealth accrued by Daniel Turnbull, was immense. During peak years of cotton production, operation of Rosedown utilized as many as 450slaves.


In the 1950s, Turnbull family members decided to try to sell the old plantation whole. In 1956, Catherine Fondren Underwood, herself an enthusiastic amateur horticulturalist, purchased it and began an eight-year historic restoration of the house and formal gardens.

Formal Gardens Restoration

The emphasis on restoration rather than renovation was applied to the formal gardens as well, which were reconstructed by Ralph Ellis Gunn using Martha Turnbull’s extensive garden diaries. When possible, the same species and varieties were replanted. When plants in Martha’s inventory were discovered to be no longer available, the staff of gardeners would propagate them from plant stock surviving in the gardens. Through this process, the gardens, as well as the house, were returned to their original state.


Currently, the main house, historic gardens and 13 historic buildings and 371 remaining acres of Rosedown Plantation are preserved as a state historic site by the Office of State Parks. State Parks staff and volunteers work to conserve and maintain the site, conducting tours and programs to illustrate plantation life in the 1800s.

Locust Grove State Historic Site:

P.O. Box 546 (Bains-Ristroph Road), St. Francisville, LA 70775
225-635-3789 or 888-677-2838 toll free


Directions: The cemetery is located four and a half miles northeast of St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, one mile north of Louisiana Highway 10 and west of US Highway 61. GPS Coordinates: N 305015; W 0912008.

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There is no staff on the site, but further information is available at Audubon State Historic Site.

Entrance Fees: There is no entrance fee to visit Locust Grove State Historic Site.

The cemeteries of Louisiana are a significant part of the state's history. They tell the story of those who laid the foundation for Louisiana as it exists today. A visit to Locust Grove State Historic Site provides an illustration of the small family cemeteries which were a part of most plantations. Several generations of family members are buried here. Strolling through the historic graves encourages reflection on the courage, determination and dedication of the early settlers in Louisiana.

The small site at Locust Grove, with only 27 plots, represents an era in Louisiana's romantic history. The cemetery is all that remains of what was once Locust Grove Plantation, owned by the family of Jefferson Davis' sister, Anna E. Davis Smith. In the summer of 1835, the future Confederate president brought Sarah Knox Taylor Davis, his wife of only three months, to the plantation for a visit. Both contracted malaria, and Mrs. Davis, the daughter of General Zachary Taylor, died at the age of 21. Her grave is situated among those of the other Davis family members.

Several times a year, special events and programs take place at Locust Grove, such as grave-rubbing demonstrations and instruction, sure to be enjoyed by genealogists and preservationists.

Louisiana Songs


Words and Music by Doralice Fontane

Arranged by Dr. John Croom

Give me Louisiana,
The State where I was born
The State of snowy cotton,
The best I've ever known;
A State of sweet magnolias,
And Creole melodies.
Oh give me Louisiana,
The State where I was born
Oh what sweet old mem'ries
The mossy old oaks bring.
It brings us the story
of our Evangeline.
A State of old tradition,
of old plantation days
Makes good ole Louisiana
The sweetest of all States.


Words and Music by Jimmy Davis and Charles Mitchell

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away

The other nite, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

I'll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You'll regret it all some day;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

You told me once, dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you've left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Louisiana my Louisiana
the place where I was born.
White fields of cotton
-- green fields clover,
the best fishing
and long tall corn;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.
Crawfish gumbo and jambalaya
the biggest shrimp and sugar cane,
the finest oysters
and sweet strawberries
from Toledo Bend to New Orleans;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.