Items to Do in New Orleans: Oak Alley Plantation Tour


There are a lot of factors to do in New Orleans you can keep for weeks there and not exhaust every thing it has to give. I left New Orleans 3 months ago (soon after staying there for four months), and I nevertheless miss it every single day. I’m hoping I can go back a single day.

1 of the extremely encouraged factors to do when going to New Orleans is to verify out the nearby plantations. It will inform you a lot about how the wealthy lived in these instances — you’d have an thought, of course, if you’d watched Gone with the Wind or Interview with the Vampire — but it is pretty distinct to see the spot exactly where they lived in individual.

Oak Alley Plantation Balcony

View of Oak Alley from the balcony of the Massive Residence.

Louisiana has a wealthy history and culture, and element of that is due to the persons slavery brought to the area. Slavery was established by European colonists in the 1700s, beginning with the French and then the Spanish. It became a U.S. territory in 1803 (Study up on the Louisiana Obtain. If the U.S. purchased the Philippines from Spain for US$20 million, Louisiana was purchased for $15 million from France.).

Slavery, nevertheless, was not abolished till 1864, for the duration of the American Civil War. In truth, the demand for slaves even enhanced when it became element of the U.S., as the cotton gin had been invented currently and persons have been required to function in the cotton fields.

As an aside, a song I nevertheless bear in mind from childhood, sang to me regularly by my grandmother, goes like this:

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay

Gone are the toils of the cotton fields away

Gone to the fields of a greater land I know

I hear these gentle voices calling, “Old Black Joe.” (Except that Lola would say, “Old Nene”, her name.)

How did my grandmother know that song? I in no way knew exactly where she discovered it as she passed away years ago, and the song in no way struck me as something but a lullaby till I arrived in New Orleans.

Slave Quarters Oak Alley Plantation

Slave Quarters at Oak Alley Plantation.

In any case, Louisiana’s slave history differed from the rest of the U.S. It is a large and complicated concern, although, anything I’m not certified to speak in depth, so let me just summarize it (sorry for oversimplifying!): in contrast to in other components of the nation, Louisiana slaves (who came from the US, and from Spanish and French colonies in Africa) had rights — they could marry, have been taught religion (Roman Catholic), and could keep with each other as a household.

Beneath the French colonizers, there have been absolutely free persons of colour (which includes the mixed-race youngsters) who owned properties, corporations, and yes, slaves of their personal as effectively. It was only when the U.S. gained manage of Louisiana that the absolutely free persons of colour became “undesirable.”

The history of slavery in Louisiana is wealthy, colorful, and tragic, and I was told that if I wanted to discover a lot more of it, the ideal plantation to check out would be Whitney Plantation, now the Whitney Plantation Historic District, which is devoted to the concerns of slavery in the Southern United States.

However, I only had the chance to do the Oak Alley Plantation tour, so I took it.

Back of the Big House Oak Alley Plantation

Back of the Massive Residence in Oak Alley.

Oak Alley Plantation is a 25-acre house house to the picturesque canopy of 28 southern reside oak trees that are possibly more than 300 years old. The plantation is positioned on the Mississippi River in Vacherie, about an hour from New Orleans. There are commonly busloads of persons going to Oak Alley every single day, and who can blame them (us?)? It is beautiful!

The land was initially owned by “King of Sugar” Valcour Aime, then a single of the richest guys in the South, and later sold to his brother-in-law Jacques Roman who had the Massive Residence constructed by slave labor. When Roman died of TB in 1848, the management of the plantation went to his wife, Celina, who practically ran it to the ground with her overspending (She was a socialite. She generally went to New Orleans to celebration as she hated living in the plantation.) till her son Henri took more than.

Henri attempted to undo his mother’s mismanagement, but with the finish of slavery and other aspects, he got in debt a lot more and a lot more and sold it till it ended up with Andrew and Josephine Stewart. It was Josephine who had the home restored and modernized, and had the garden created. She left the plantation to the Oak Alley Foundation when she died in 1972 and it became open to the public then.

Oak Alley Plantation tours can be booked with any travel agency in New Orleans — even though I would advocate just booking it on-line through — and it commonly consists of transportation and guided tour of the Massive Residence. Here’s what you can see when you check out the Oak Alley Plantation (hold in thoughts you are only provided two hours to discover the plantation grounds and exhibits).

The Big House Oak Alley Plantation

Area inside the Massive Residence.

Oak Alley Plantation Tour of the “Big House”

A tour of the Massive Residence is a single of the highlights of your check out to Oak Alley. The half-hourly guided tours — completed by docents in the clothes of the time — give a glimpse to how the owners lived in the 1800s.

1 of the exhibits in the dining location showed a cost list of the grocery products and other costs at that time. There have been all sorts of factors listed: two dozen apples for 80 cents, Celina’s bill at a shop for $57, a pair of footwear for Roselia (a 13-year-old slave girl) for $1, two pounds of cheese for 40 cents, 1 month of schooling for all the slave youngsters for $10, and 1 dozen handkerchiefs for $7. (Can you see how Celina had been spending?)

oak alley plantation slaves

A list of Oak Alley Plantation slaves and their worth.

There was also a list of the slaves at that time and their worth in USD. The most high-priced was Meanna (30-year-old seamstress) and her 5 youngsters, aged 7, six, five, two, and 10 months old. Collectively, they have been valued at $1,500.

The single most high-priced a single was Deterville, Roman’s suitable-hand man and later Henri’s. He was valued at $1,200 even though history showed that he had a lot of autonomy as a slave and even handled and owned income. Deterville continued to function for the Romans even soon after slavery ended. He disappeared for the duration of the Civil War.

Slave House exterior Oak Alley Plantation

1 of the slave homes in Oak Alley (commonly a duplex).

The Slavery Exhibit

If you rely on the guide, you will not get a great deal facts about slavery in the Oak Alley Plantation tour (which is why the Whitney Plantation is greater in that location). Even so they do have a Slavery Exhibit at the back of the mansion, exactly where the slaves’ homes have been positioned.

To numerous guests, seeing the Slavery Exhibit can be uncomfortable, specially when you contemplate how complicated it will have to have been for the numerous field slaves to plant, have a tendency, and harvest sugarcane beneath the hot Louisiana sun.

Slave House interior Oak Alley Plantation

Interior of a slave home. It is tiny and simple (appear! a cat!).

Sick House Oak Alley Plantation

The Sick Residence serving the slaves at Oak Alley.

Even so, it is fascinating to note that Oak Alley slaves enjoyed a particular degree of independence. They have been in a position to develop their personal crops like corn, which their masters purchased from them. Owners of the plantation got to get crops at a inexpensive cost whilst the slaves got further income to plant a lot more crops, which permitted them to supplement their diet program.

As a way to recognize the challenging function of the slaves of Oak Alley, their names are written on a cabin wall in the slave quarters.

Sugarcane Theater Oak Alley Plantation

The Sugarcane Exhibit and Theater

The Sugarcane Exhibit &amp Theatre

Like numerous wealthy estates in the location, Oak Alley was at a single point a sugarcane plantation. In its heyday, demand for sugarcane came from all more than, specially with the typical individual consuming about 50 pounds of sugar per year by 1870.

The Sugarcane Exhibit and Theater has a three dimensional map of the properties of the Roman household as effectively as displays on how sugarcane was grown and processed. You can also watch a quick film whilst you are there.

Guidelines for Going to Oak Alley Plantation

Tips for Visiting Oak Alley Plantation

So attractive, is not it?

Your time going to Oak Alley is restricted to two hours, 30 minutes of which is currently allotted to a tour of the Massive Residence. Our guide booked us the most recent tour doable so we could go about very first. I spent also a great deal of my time taking photos of the front of the home exactly where the canopy of oaks is, so it left tiny time for me to check out the Slave Exhibit.

So, spending budget your time. It is good to take images of the oaks, but do not anticipate to get a single with no persons in it, unless of course, you are staying in the house and can go about prior to the horde arrives.

There’s a restaurant and cafe in the Massive Residence, you can have lunch there or have the famed Mint Julep. Me becoming a spending budget traveler, I purchased a po boy and brought it with me, and with my water, sat and had a picnic beneath a single of the oak trees. Perfection!

I booked my Oak Alley Plantation tour through Tinggly ($79), it was simple with no concerns. I just went to the bus choose-up place. There was a tour guide on board who told us about New Orleans and surroundings, and took care of booking our Massive Residence tour. I would advocate them.

When I go back to New Orleans (hopefully subsequent year, or anytime), I would surely take the Whitney Plantation tour. The plantations of Louisiana are beautiful, yes, but I assume we will have to also know what else is behind the beauty, which includes slavery.

Have you completed any New Orleans plantation tours? How was your knowledge?


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