See Rock City

See Rock City

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Catalpa Plantation

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.

Source: Internet