Sunday, February 17, 2013

Our next stop was Laura Plantation which is a Creole Plantation. You can tell it's Creole by the many  colors and elaborate gingerbread on the house. I really liked the architecture of the house with it's double staircase entry.

Like Destrehan, Laura Plantation farmed sugar cane. Like all plantations along the Mississippi, Laura was like a small city and almost completely self sufficient. It had it's own lumber mill, blacksmith, midwife, brick maker, candle maker, infirmary, etc. Laura also fronted the Mississippi River. This allowed the owner to ship his crop and receive goods. Due to the swampy conditions almost all travel was by riverboat. Here is the map of Plantations along the Mississippi River in 1858. Everyone has access to the river, but parcels are narrow and quite deep. Most of these plantations were 1000's of acres. Laura was 12,000 acres.

Construction of the manor house began in 1804 and was completed 11 months later. The work was executed by highly-skilled slaves. The home owner ordered a "20 squared." This meant the house would be 20 joists across and squared. The framing was cut from timber on the property. Everything was fitted at the mill and then delivered to the site and reassembled. Assembly was tongue and grove with wooden pegs. Every sill and beam was numbered to facilitate assembly on site. These markings are still visible. The house has withstood numerous hurricanes which speaks volumes about it's construction. Because the land is boggy and the water table is at six feet the house is raised high above ground, resting on brick columns and walls, supported underground by an 8-foot deep pyramidal brick foundation to keep it from sinking.

This is Laura, the Mistress of the house. During this era ladies were given an ornate ivory fan as an engagement gift instead of a ring. This is Laura's fan.

Creole Plantations were a family business. Every family member had a job to do. The family did not just supervise the work, they actually worked in the fields, sheds, etc. Laura was the president of the business. The Presidency was decided by who was the smartest and hardest working member of the family.

This is the master bedroom. This bed has a rolling pin headboard. Can you see it? The mattresses were stuffed with cleaned and dried Spanish Moss. At night the moss would get scrunched and balled up leaving the mattress lumpy. So every morning the LARGE rolling pin was removed from the headboard and the mattress was rolled until flat again!

Frequently plantations had daybeds at the foot of the bed. These were provided so the lady of the house could lay down during the day if necessary. Why not use the regular bed? Because only whores went back to bed during the day!

This bed has a prayer stool at it's foot (most plantation owners were Catholic.) Everyone on the plantation was expected to say their prayers regularly, including the slaves.

Also in this room is a plantation era walker. It's the tripod shaped thing next to the chair.

The main living area includes a clock which is original to the plantation. There was a fire some years ago and the clock was damaged. Fearing for the clock the owners moved it to their home in New Orleans where it was then damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Note the difference in the color of the wood on the clock. This marks how high the water was in the home on the second floor!

 Laura's Plantation still has many of it's outbuildings. Livestock sheds, the overseer's cottages, slave cabins, carriage sheds and the kitchen all give a peek into plantation life.

Laura's formal French Gardens have been restored. Even in winter the gardens are beautiful.

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