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 with the slaves who were once forced to work 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.

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.
Costumed tour guides lead visitors through the big house.
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.
The balcony overlooks the alley of oaks.
A nice, quarter-mile walk



Reconstructed slave quarters




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