So cold! I hope this is Old Man Winter’s last hurrah, his last 1-2 punch before he makes his retreat for another year. I could use a little reminder that spring is coming, soon to be followed by warm summer days. How about you?
Last May a friend who loves old homes as much as I do, took me on a wonderful tour of some of the beautiful historic homes in Louisiana. I took way too many pictures on that trip which is why in February 2015, I’m still sorting through them all. I can’t wait to take you inside Houmas House and I hope to do that very soon. But for today, in pure defiance of this bitter cold weather, we’ll enjoy summer again as we stroll through the beautiful gardens surrounding Houmas House Plantation.
On the day we visited, they were busy watering the grass. Remember green lawns? Can you hear the sound of the sprinkler as it sput, sput, sputters around watering the freshly mowed lawn?
The Live Oaks in front of Houmas House are beautiful and majestic. At one time there were 24 of them and Irishman, John Burnside who purchased the plantation in 1857 for one million dollars, nicknamed them “The Gentlemen.” The name stuck and future generations referred to them that way, as well.
Sadly, many of the trees were cut down one hundred years later when the levees were built on the river and the road outside Houmas House was widened. At the Houmas House site online it’s described this way:
“But as the levee construction crews approached, their big saws brought Gentleman after Gentleman crashing to the ground. Up from the river toward the great house marched progress. The levee was raised, and the road was widened and paved.”
High on the balcony you can see one of the many tour groups visiting “The Sugar Palace” as Houmas House was known during its antebellum heydey. Let’s go up and take in the view of the surrounding lawn and gardens.
Notice how all the trees are leaning. I promise I hadn’t had one too many Mint Juleps in the Houmas House Restaurant prior to taking these pictures. The trees really do lean that way. I thought perhaps they leaned due to past hurricanes or the winds from the river but the story behind the leaning Gentlemen is much more mysterious than that.
Apparently, when the other Gentlemen were being felled to widen the road, 16 of the workmen schemed to make a profit by floating the huge trees down the river to be milled in New Orleans. The 16 “profiteers” literally sat on the backs of the trees as they floated down the river and in the end, every one of them died. There bodies were never recovered from the mighty Mississippi.
Creepy, huh? But here’s the really scary part. The caretaker for the home was named Mr. Green. His wife got up one morning about a week after the last man had died and gone missing and she made her usual morning trip out to the outhouse. She returned scared out of her wits and completely hysterical. Overnight all the remaining Gentlemen” had bent over in a what’s described as a deformed, disfigured manner. The Houmas House site describes it this way:
“Literally overnight, the 8 remaining “Gentlemen,” which had maintained their stately symmetry through hurricanes, droughts, floods and seasons of sub-tropical pestilence, had re-shaped themselves into grotesque sculptures of grief and agony, heads bowed and limbs drooping like mourners at a funeral.”
The engineers working on the levee thought it was possibly due to a change in the water table or trauma from the equipment and trucks used during the road work and removal of the other trees. But the Greens and other local residents in the area felt the trees became disfigured when the wandering spirits of the 16 dead workmen came back during the night. Can you imagine awakening and find all 8 of the remaining trees leaning and “disfigured” as described by those who saw them. That would be quite a shock, wouldn’t it? I know how shocking it is to wake up and find one tree leaning after a big storm…can’t imagine eight!
The view to the right of the trees is truly beautiful.
We can see a small portion of gardens down below. We’re going down there in just a moment for a much closer view. Houmas House’s gardens are some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen surrounding an historic home.
There’s the Garconniere. I wonder why they had all the shutters closed.
Here’s how it looks with the shutters thrown back in this picture from the Houmas House website. Let’s go down and check out the gardens!
There are actually two beautiful houses on the plantation. Behind the mansion is the original home for the property. It’s a French Provincial house built by Maurice Conway and Alexander Latil who purchased the land from the Houmas Indians in the mid 1700’s.
I’m going to hush for a bit now and just let you enjoy the garden as we did.
There’s a vegetable garden located right behind and to the side of Houmas House…let’s take a closer look.
I loved seeing the vegetable gardens as much as the floral ones.
I thought the wood structure was possibly for climbing beans and such, but I wonder what those window box things are on top. A watering system of sorts?
We can see the house from the garden.
I love, love, love this view of the house. It feels like a real home in this view where people live and work (which it is since the owner does live there) and not just an historic home that’s open for tours.
Is that an artichoke growing in the garden? I think it may be! First time I’ve seen them growing in a garden.
Lots of pretty statuary in the garden…
Further away from the house we came upon a Japanese garden.
Love the waterfalls in the Japanese garden.
A view of Houmas House in the evening from the Houmas House website.
I love this view of Houmas House in the mist…so mysterious looking. Looking forward to taking you inside for a tour real soon!
Tour some of the other beautiful historic homes we toured by clicking on any of the pictures below:
You can read more about Houmas House Plantation and Gardens at their website here: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens