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Oaklawn Manor

Oaklawn Manor

Named for the gracious moss-covered oak trees adorning the lawn, this mansion was built by an Irishman named Alexander Porter, who had arrived penniless in the county at age of 16. He had to leave Ireland when his father was executed as a rebel  by the English during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.   Alexander eventually migrated to Louisiana where he built Oaklawn and rose to become a United States senator.
Gov. Mike talks with us about his home

This 1837 Greek Revival plantation manor today is the residence of another political great, Louisiana's former governor, Murphy J. (Mike) Foster. We got to meet Governor Foster and he shared some of his favorite stories about his home.

The house is a true castle with the walls 20 inches thick. The home is furnished with European antiques, lovely bird carvings  by Houma native Don Gomex and an extensive Audubon collection. I loved the huge book of sketches.

 

Gov. Mike's prized Audubon Room
One piece the governor is particularly proud of is a huge stature of a female pelican feeding her young. It is reminiscent of the Louisiana state seal. When he first acquired the piece he wanted to  place it on the dining room table.

His wife was adamant in her refusal to have it there. Now you need to realize how a pelican feeds its young. The adult bird eats a fish and the regurgitates it back into the mouth of the baby birds. The Governor said that his wife, Alice, stated "'I will not have anything throwing up on the same table where I am eating.' We moved the stature over here." He indicated the birds' place of honor in his Audubon Room.

The lower floors are open for tours but the upper floor is the governor and his wife's private residence.


Grevenberg
Grevemberg House Museum

When I visited this 1851 Greek Revival style home, now authentically restored, it was hard to image it serving as a roller ring and a community center and once being so devastated it was ready to be torn down.

Fortunately, some forward thinking citizens formed the St. Mary Chapter/Louisiana Landmarks Society and saved it. As you drive up, you view Four "Temple of the Winds" Corinthian columns that grace the home. Within it's filled with fine antiques, documented wallpapers and early artifacts from St. Mary Parish. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Only at Grevenberg do you find a casket in a home

Originally built in 1851 by Henry Wilson, it was bought by Mrs. Francis Wyckoff Grevenberg in 1857. She remained in the house longer than any other owners thus the name, Grevenberg House. After her death it passed through a secession of owners before being sold to the city of Franklin.

One of the most unique items on the tour is a cast iron casket in the display room. It is believed to have been that of Charles Grevenberg.

Children's room at Grevenberg
The art displayed in the home is priceless and varied. The children's room is filled with antique toys and the floor covering is an painted oilcloth depicting early Mother Goose Tales.

The wallpaper is copied from the original, pieces of which were printed on the back of newspapers. Since the newspapers were dated it was easy to establish the period the original wallpaper had been printed. These old homes are such a treasure trove of art and antiques, you just have to take the tours to really appreciate them all.

Crescent Farm
Crescent Farm

This former sugar cane plantation house was built by William Alexander Shaffer in 1849. William came from South Carolina. This plantation is different from most of the mansions you see here. It has a strong French influence. It's a style of home called Creole Acadian; characterized by a raised floor plan, wide galleries, multiple chimneys and a second floor front porch.

It is not open for tours as  it is used as a lawyer's office.

 
Ardoyne Plantation
Ardoyne Plantation

The land was named Ardoyne, meaning "Little Knoll" by the former land owners. John   Bolton Shaffer, one of William's sons bought land and built the home for his wife. She was sickly and was traveling abroad for her health. She requested a "cottage" and when she returned found this replica of a Scottish castle complete with a gingerbread decorated  75 foot tower.

The Shaffer family owned much of the land and homes in the area at one time. Three plantations that are still standing trace their roots to this family. Lee Shaffer is the seventh generation to live in the home.

Built in 1894 This plantation had so many family heirlooms stored in the attic that it is richly furnished with pieces that belong to the family. One item was a dusty old pair of boots. It seems the boots once belonged to an ancestor who was in the Confederate Army. He had the reputation of being a cranky sort. When the family moved the boots "he" began making strange noises like boots walking. They moved the boots back to the office and the noises stopped.

Magnolia Plantation

Built in 1835 by Thomas Ellis, this charming home is located on Little Bayou Black. One of the homes' more dubious claims to fame is that Thomas' daughter, Eliza Brooks Ellis, married General Braxton Bragg in the home on June 7, 1849. At that time and until the Civil War, it was part of a thriving sugar cane plantation. Magnolia was used as a hospital for Federal Troops during the Civil War.

This one was also owned by one of the Shaffer family Captain John Jackson Shaffer, CSA, who  bought the home in 1874. Today, it's a private home still owned by Shaffer descendants.

Portions of the movie, "Twelve Years a Slave" was filmed here.

Southdown
Southdown Plantation

Originally indigo then cotton was grown here but when William J. Minor and James Dinsmore purchased the land in 1828, they switched to sugar cane which proved to be much more profitable. They built a sugar mill on the adjourning plot in 1846.  By 1859, William Minor was on his way to the top. There is a Shaffer connection here too. One of Lee Shaffer's multi-great grandparents were the Minors. He had become sole owner and built a one story Greek Revival house. His son,  Henry, added the second story and the architectural details. The house today had 20 rooms flanked by two turrets.

The graceful lines and rich wood floors of Southdown
The pink color came about when the original red brick house was white washed. The bricks were made on site and were very soft and needed much retouching. In the process, the red from the bricks bled through to create the color you see today.

The Minor family remained in the home until 1932 thus much of the original furnishing remain. 233 slaves were the real workers here. One of the cabins was salvaged and remains on the grounds as part of the plantation tour.

The Terrebonne Historical & Cultural Society is housed in the plantation and offers many other exhibits about life in Terrebonne Parish including one colorful exhibit on Mardi Gras in Houma.

 
Fairfax House
Fairfax House

Located near the historic Bayou Teche in Franklin, Louisiana, the Fairfax House was once the manor house on a sugar plantation. It was built in 1852 by John Barrett Murphy for his daughter Martha, who was married to Thomas J. Foster Then it was called Shady Retreat.

Today is a flourishing bed and breakfast known for their lavish meals and comfortable rooms.

These are just a few of the architectural  treasures you will discover along the highways and byways of Acadiana.

For more info:

Oaklawn http://www.oaklawnmanor.com/

Fairfax House http://www.thefairfaxhouse.net/

Adoyne Plantation http://www.ardoyneplantation.com/

Southdown http://southdownmuseum.publishpath.com/

Grevemberg House  http://grevemberghouse.com/

Crescent Farm http://www.crescent-farm.com/


 

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