I still have a few plantations left from my most recent family avoiding New Years trip to New Orleans. I will get to them but first I thought I would clear another from my backlog of fascinating places with furniture. I’m still sorting the glass negatives from my visit to the Titanic right before it sailed. Good stuff but I’m still working on the narrative.
I had work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in July of 2015. To save the company a few hundred in airfare, I offered to fly in and out of New Orleans and drive up in a rental car. I have a condition that requires me stop every so many miles and walk around for a few hours. It’s a burden I bear but such is life.
On the return to New Orleans the timer went off as I was approaching the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, St. James Parish. (Wikipedia article HERE.) Not wanting to risk my health, I stopped and wandered about for a bit. I even paid money and took a tour of the mansion.
First, about the name Oak Alley:
Not entirely, the oak alley was planted in 1710. The mansion was not built until 1837.
Oak Alley was built from 1837-39 by Jaques Roman on the grounds of his sugar plantation. It was built entirely with enslaved labor. Jacques Roman died in 1848 of tuberculosis and the estate was then managed by family. As seems to happen so often, the family lacked the skill, knowledge and discipline to manage the estate. when the patriarch dies, the family is not prepared to continue running the business. The Civil War and the end of slavery did not help the plantation’s fortunes. in 1866, the plantation was sold at auction.
Oak Alley then passed through a series owners as its condition deteriorated. In 1925 the property was acquired by Andrew Stewart as a gift to his wife, Josephine. She commissioned architect Richard Koch to supervise extensive restoration and modernize the house. When Josephine Stewart died in 1972, the grounds and mansion were left to the Oak Alley Foundation. Oak Alley was then opened to the public.
Based on the history of this mansion, you can feel certain that the furniture within is not original to the estate. The best you can hope is that the owner has assembled an interesting collection of period appropriate furniture and accessories.
Well, they did. Or so I think, but I’m no expert. One of the first things that caught my eye was this overhead fan in the dining room . It’s function was to circulate the air and the resident flies:
In the master bedroom was this rolling pin bed:
The claim was made that the rolling pin was used to smooth out and pack the stuffed mattress. The mattress was stuffed with Spanish moss and other available organic materials. Insects aside, the problem has that this material tended to bunch and not compress uniformly. They used the rolling pin as a daily fix for this problem.
I have seen many similar beds and this is the only bed about which the rolling pin claim is made. It is also the only bed I’ve seen that the rolling pin is not securely attached. I’m not saying that the rolling pin was not removable and used for leveling the mattress. I’m just saying that I’ve not found any independent corroboration.
Not that it really matters.
There was this very attractive office:
On the property, they have built six replica slave cabins. The cabins are furnished with period appropriate vernacular furniture. As troubling as I find the whole notion, I took pictures:
To see the entire set of mansion and slave cabin furniture pictures, click HERE.