My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Visit to Audubon State Historic Site

March 1, 2017

One of the places I wanted to visit while in Louisiana was St. Francisville.  It has a lot of old plantation houses, including some you can tour.

I spotted this ruin at a junction of the main road and a road to Oakley Plantation, where Audubon lived and worked for four months, but did many of his bird paintings.  I didn't find any signs and took the pictures from the road, because I think this is private property.

A ruin along the road to St. Francisville - I didn't find out what it was

Another part of the same ruin

I enjoyed the beautiful back road and found some Cherokee roses, low enough to get good photographs.  Then I saw a sign that appeared to be to an overlook and followed that road until I found it was part of a golf course. But I discovered the Mary Ann Brown Reserve and stopped for a short exploration on a few of the trails.

Cherokee roses are decorating both the woods and people's yards

Closeup of Cherokee Rose

Path on the Reserve

An Overview Spot that looked down on this view

I found a fairy tunnel under a live tree

I came upon a little pond and a bench from which to enjoy it

And found my first fern frond of spring

Cherokee roses were abundant

I didn't stay long because I wanted to tour a few of the historic plantations so soon continued on to Oakley Plantation. This is where Audubon lived for four months and painted thirty-two of his magnificant bird pictures.

I think this is from the picture where the original has a glued-on
head from a different painting. 

View on the road in

One of a line of rocking chairs waiting for visitors to the Visitor Center

Blooms of tung oil trees which were planted to replace income after the huge long-leaf pines were mostly clearcut from the Piedmont

I enjoyed a solo tour with a very knowledgeable tour guide. Oakley plantation was built in 1806 on land still claimed by Spain.  Lucy Alston Gray, who lost her husband, had the first land grant given to a woman, according to my guide, although I haven't verified this. But apparently the inheritance passed to daughters for three generations.  Lucy and her second husband hired Audubon to teach their daughter. He only had to work half a day and could devote the rest of his time to painting.  He had an assistant that painted the backgrounds while Audubon painted the birds. He also had a wife and four children who lived at another plantation where his wife worked as a governess.

First view of the house

The house shows its West Indies influences that helped to keep it cool.  It had brick
 floors to draw in cool moisture and great cross ventilation

The front had porches with fixed shutters on the top two floors that let people sleep on then in privacy. The bottom bricked floor drew coolness from under the house

This was the Pit, a kind of greenhouse in which to grow winter greens and start spring vegetables

Two little slave quarter houses.

The kitchen with rooms to perform other household tasks

A view inside the kitchen house

Artifacts in the kitchen house

I liked this graphic effect of the pot that would hang inside the fireplace for cooking. 

I coveted this collection of cast iron pots

This beautiful fenced garden probably held more vegetables in the early days. The fence still protects the garden from depredation by deer.

A view across center paved area in the side garden

I think this might be part of a mule driven sugarcane crushing mill. 

I didn't take any pictures inside because I was engaged with the tour guide and the light was really low. But if you would like your own tour, click here.

This part of the trip took me up to noon. and lunch at a little Lebanese restaurant.  I enjoyed the food and then searched for the library.  My GPS brought me to an empty building but I saw a sign for a museum and went in.  There I found lots of interesting exhibits and learned about a little town on Bayou Sara that was lost to floods. Be sure to visit the museum if you come this way. The very helpful lady who was managing the museum gave me directions to what turned out to be the most magnificent library I've ever found in a small town.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at a sister plantation, Rosedown.  It is stunning for both it's gardens and the restored house. Stay tuned.

This is but a sample of what can be found in St Francisville and the surrounding area.  I once spent an enjoyable weekend biking and visiting some of the plantations here. Several other plantations are open to the public. And the largest bald cypress in America is very near here in Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. I planned to end my day visiting the tree but recent floods have destroyed the road to it .

Here are descriptions of the six plantations open to the public. Find other stuff to do by clicking links at the top of the page.

And this site describes lots of fun things to do, including canoeing and biking. I think spring is the most beautiful time to visit.  This year I think spring will peak in the next three weeks.  But in normal years - if we are not in the new normal - this should be fun through early May.