Louisiana, Travel

Oak Alley Plantation

When planning my trip to New Orleans, several people suggested visiting a plantation. Oak Alley, an hour outside the city, was of particular interest because of its 300-year-old alley of McDonogh oaks. More than that, though, I felt a trip was important because it would provide a glimpse into the antebellum South’s history, juxtaposing the lives of wealthy plantation owners and the slaves who once worked for them.

It’s easy to imagine living a life of luxury as you tour the Big House, tables set with fine china and glasses filled with wine. Walking through the reconstructed slave quarters, though, it’s hard to get an idea of what life would have been like because things are cleaned up and sterilized. The thing that ultimately got to me was the wall of names–all the known slaves who toiled away there under the hot Louisiana sun.

I think it’s worth a visit for anyone planning a trip to the New Orleans area. In addition to touring the main house and slave quarters, there’s a restaurant that serves Southern Cajun/Creole Cuisine (best red beans and rice of my life!) and cottages for  anyone interested in spending the night. You can also just walk the grounds and let your imagination wander.

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Built by Jacques and Celina Roman, the “Big House” is now 175-years-old. After Jacques’ death, the Roman family lost the property, and it fell into disrepair. Andrew and Josephine Stewart acquired and restored it in the early 1900’s. Josephine eventually left the grounds and home to the Oak Alley Foundation, intending for them to be open to the public.
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Costumed tour guides lead visitors through the big house.
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Imagine surviving the oppressive Louisiana heat without air-conditioning! The harp-shaped object above the table was designed to keep the room cool 175 years ago. This “fan” would be operated by a slave, and it would help circulate cool air from a bowl of ice placed beneath it on the table. He couldn’t fan too quickly, though, or he’d blow out the candles.
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The balcony overlooks the alley of oaks.
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A nice, quarter-mile walk

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Reconstructed slave quarters

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Names of former slaves who once worked on the sugarcane plantation
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Once McDonogh Oaks reach a certain height, they begin growing out. Sometimes their branches reach down into the soil before sprouting back up again.

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10 thoughts on “Oak Alley Plantation”

  1. I am curious about the slave quarters, how or if they were furnished. Was each cabin simply a room with four walls, or was there anything else? I don’t imagine they were provided with much furnishings. Any photos of the interiors? Thank you, Jolene, for sharing these very interesting photos.

  2. Wonder if this is the location of the movie Forrest Gump.
    Yes indeed the plantation owners built vast fortunes from cotton and other cash crops with the “help” of slave labor…it is a good reminder today for us about the not so pleasant past.

    1. I don’t think Forrest Gump was filmed there, but Interview with the Vampire was.
      It is a gorgeous location, which is part of the reason it makes it so hard to imagine what happened there pre-Civil War. I am glad they’ve reconstructed some of the cabins and included some history lessons. It is a good reminder of something that happened not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

  3. Great photos. It looks like a thoroughly interesting place. When I visited Louisiana back in 2003 we went to Laura Plantation simply because my name is Laura. I’ve been to a few southern plantations in different states but there is something different about the ones in Louisiana.

    1. I remember “Laura” being on the list, but we only had time to visit one plantation. If I return, I’ll definitely visit more of them. The history is just so fascinating. I wonder what that “something different” is about Louisiana. I haven’t been to any others outside of the state.

      1. The architecture and layout of the properties is just very different. We were told that was because of the Creole culture in Louisiana versus the cultural influences in, for example, Mississippi.

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