Often regarded as The Grande Dame of the Great River Road, the historic Oak Alley Plantation is truly the quintessential image of a Southern Plantation home. Located in Vacherie and built in the 1830s, this antebellum-style mansion offers a unique journey back to a time when plantations played an important role in the Southern economy.
From Baton Rouge to New Orleans, large sugar plantations lined the banks of the Mississippi River. As planters made fortunes with the production of what they called the “white gold“, their cottages began to be more opulent and impressive which emphasized their social condition. With the Civil War, many of these mansions fell into ruin and consequently, were destroyed.
Approximately an hour´s drive from New Orleans, a visit to this architectural treasure is a perfect way to immerse yourself in early Louisiana farm life. The opulence and the glamourous life of the planters stood in stark contrast to the poverty and harsh life of the slaves who lived in shacks behind the Big Houses.
Exuding elegance and grandeur, the Oak Alley Plantation is reminiscent of the classic Gone With The Wind.
This Greek revival mansion captures the essence of old Southern charm and evokes the ambiance and the romance of a bygone era.
As we walked the lush gardens, I imagined what it was like to live in such a sultry manor.
I pictured a sumptuous entry hall with a crystal chandelier and a gorgeous curved staircase, sophisticated rooms with luscious silk curtains and sconces, a spacious parlor decorated with antique furniture…
To my amazement, the property happened to be less exuberant than I had dreamed. It was smaller than it looked and the furnishings weren´t original although they were typical pieces from that period
Our tour guide, beautifully dressed in period costumes, gave us a detailed insight into the rich history of the manor and the four generations of owners that once dwelled in it.
We were delighted to know that in colonial days, the pineapple was a symbol of hospitality and status. At Oak Alley plantation, guests were often served freshly cut pineapples when they arrived.
Since pineapples were considered a great delicacy, visitors felt especially honored that the owners of the mansion had spared no expense in their behalf. Nevertheless, if guests woke up with a whole pineapple in their room, it meant they were over-staying their welcome and was time for them to leave.
At the end of the tour, our guide opened the imposing French doors to the huge row of oak trees. The views from the balcony were intoxicatingly gorgeous. Apparently, the oaks were planted early in the 1700s by a French settler long before the mansion was built.
The soaring columned porch is undoubteldly the best place to unwind and sip a delicious Mint Julep.
We marveled at the beauty of the quarter-mile avenue of 28 giant, live oaks that lead up to the house. It´s not surprising that Oak Alley is one of the most photographed plantations in the country.
Oak Alley Plantation has been featured in numerous films including Interview With The Vampire, The Long Hot Summer and Primary Colors.
Slavery at Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation was built entirely with slave labour between 1837 and 1839. During our visit, our thoughts were with the 110 slaves who worked feverishly from sun-up to sun-down either in the fields or at the Big House.
“Slavery at Oak Alley” is an extensive slavery exhibit that features six reconstructed slave quarters to showcase the life condition of these remarkable people who made the owners´luxurious lifestyle possible.
Antoine, who was a very talented slave gardener, grafted the first paper shell pecan. Although his achievement wasn´t recognized at that time, from now on his efforts will always be remembered.
Oak Alley Highlights
- Wouldn´t it be nice to spend the night in such an idyllic setting? Oak Alley Plantation has also 19th century cottages located on the grounds not far from the mansion.
- There is also a restaurant that serves traditional Cajun and Creole dishes.
- Opening Hours: from 9am to 5pm
- Visitor Fees: Adults $20, teenagers $7.50, children $4.50
- Guided Tours take place every 30 min