Today I’m taking you inside Laura Plantation, another one of the many plantation homes I toured with my friend Linda on our trip to the New Orleans area back in May of this year.
Laura is a Creole plantation located on River Road in Vacherie, Louisiana. It is midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I’ve heard the word Creole many times over the years but I never knew exactly what it meant. Per the Laura Plantation website, Creole refers to the non-anglo culture and lifestyle that flourished in Louisiana prior to it becoming part of the United States in 1803. Louisiana Creole is made up of three different ethnic influences: west European, west African, and Native American.
The Laura Plantation site describes the Creole lifestyle this way:
“The Creole functioned in an elitist structure, based on family ties. In its philosophy, economics and politics, European custom and modern thought were thrown out and, in their place, a strict, self-serving pragmatism was born out of the isolation and desperation that characterized Louisiana in her formative years. The earliest, tragic lessons of survival in Louisiana created a family-oriented world that would, for centuries, put little value in public education or public works and even in the rule of law.”
Until the 20th century, the inhabitants of this area spoke French and preferred to remain separate from the more dominant Anglo-Saxon-Protestant American culture.
There are four massive trees in front of Laura Plantation. They are Live Oaks and you can see part of one in the photo above and below. The trees have been dated and named. They are: Nanette-208 years old, Elisabeth-189 years old, Desiree-189 years old and Laura-161 years old.
Owned by Guillaume Duparc, the manor home was originally called l’habitation Duparc. Years later it was renamed Laura Plantation by Emile Locoul in honor of his daughter, Laura Locoul Gore.
Built in 1804, Laura Plantation was constructed high above the round on blue-gray glazed brick columns and walls that are supported underground by an 8-foot brick foundation.
The house was constructed of Cypress which was plentiful back then and inlaid with locally fired brick. They call that “briquette-entre-poteaux” which means brick between posts. You can see this more clearly in the photo below. Next it was plastered inside and stuccoed on the outside. One of the things that makes Laura special is its Federal style interior woodwork and Norman roof truss.
Laura Plantation was painted in colors that were popular at that time: warm red, ocher, dark green, cool gray and mauve. At one time Laura encompassed 12,000 acres and the primary crop was sugarcane. Laura Plantation sits on 13 acres now and it’s still surrounded by sugarcane that continues to be grown in this area.
This large planter harkens back to the days when Laura Plantation was a working sugar cane plantation. The sugar mill for the plantation was located 1 mile behind the manor house, surrounded by sugarcane fields.
When you take a tour of Laura, the first place they take you is into the huge brick basement. I couldn’t remember what they stored in the large urns we saw there so I used a lifeline and emailed Linda, my touring companion for this trip. Fortunately, Linda has a working memory, unlike me! Also, she’s toured Laura several times. So there! 😉
She said the large urns were originally used to store oils and olives from Spain but the DuParcs used them to store milk, eggs etc… They were buried in the ground up to around the neck area to help keep the contents cool.
This is Elizabeth DuParc.
Elizabeth was one of the daughters of Guillaume and Nanette, the original owners of Laura Plantation.
I get lost in all the names since four generations of the Duparc-Locoul family called Laura Plantation, home. Here’s a family tree from the Laura Plantation website.
In 2004 an electrical fire started in an office that was attached to the home. You can still see evidence of the fire in the ceiling above the basement. There’s more info about the fire at the Laura Plantation site. It burned over 80% of the home. Fortunately, the majority of the furniture in the home was saved.
The dining room at Laura Plantation… The floor plan for Laura is very simple. It’s basically two rows of five rooms that all open into each other with no existing hallways. Each room, in addition to opening up to other rooms, also has a least one set of French doors that open to the outside. This was great for cross ventilation in the Louisiana heat.
We had a great tour guide and he had the cutest Cajun or Creole accent…very lyrical. I could have listened to him all day. Of course, since he’s from the area, we were really the ones with the accents. 🙂 If you would like to watch a cute video by a young lady named Katelyn, explaining the difference between the different accents you’ll find in Louisiana, check out this video: Louisiana Cajun/Creole Accents
During the restoration after the fire, the doors throughout the home were elaborately painted as they were before the fire. What a labor of love!
I’ve always heard mirrors like this were placed down low so women could check their petticoats. Our guide said that’s a myth. He said the mirrors were placed really low this way to bring more light into rooms. I like the petticoat story better but I’m sure he was right.
A bedroom inside Laura Plantation.
A closer view…
The fireplace in the same bedroom…Laura Plantation, being a country home, didn’t have marble fireplaces so I’m pretty sure this is a faux application made to look like marble.
Gorgeous bookcase secretary and writing desk…Laura Plantation is furnished with original antiques that were saved in the fire. Also, several pieces have been donated to the plantation by families of the original owners. How wonderful is that!
Another bedroom in Laura Plantation…
Love the posters with their tobacco leaf design.
This was a little office just off the bedroom above.
A sweet crib…imagine all the generations that have slept in that sweet bed.
I like the side rails on this child’s bed, such a great design for when children are too big for their little cribs.
As we stepped out onto the back porch, I snapped a few pics of the brightly colored doors and shutters.
It would be interesting to see how the design was made on the doors. They must have put the paint on the door and then dragged something through it to create the design, kind of the way we do with icing sometimes.
A brightly colored back porch ceiling…they weren’t afraid of color back then, were they?
When Laura Plantation was first built, it was designed in a U-shape with the 2 back wings around a central courtyard. It had a detached kitchen building in back. The two wings were removed when the Waguespacks bought Laura Plantation.
I don’t remember the full story now but I remember the guide said there was some kind of family inheritance dispute and to settle it, two different family members each claimed their part of the inheritance by taking a wing off the main home.
I asked the guide why they would go to all that trouble, seems like it would just be easier to build from scratch. I think he said wood was hard to come by at that time so they just took the wings right off the house! Crazy, huh?! Can you imagine having to stand there and watch your home be torn apart? I can’t even imagine!
When the home burned, rather than rebuild the wings, they boarded up the area where they used to connect. The current owners hope to restore the wings one day.
Hope you enjoyed this tour of Laura Plantation. If you ever head down to the New Orleans area, stop in and take the tour! Here’s another great article about Laura Plantation with information about its current owners and what inspires them to keep the history of Laura Plantation alive: Creole Country: Laura Plantation Rises From The Ashes
To tour any of the other historic Louisiana and Mississippi plantation homes I’ve shared here at BNOTP over the past few months, click anywhere on the collage below and it will take you to the category page where you’ll find links to all the tours.