The Creole world was both privileged, elegant, and tragic. They lived in their own fascinating insulation from the rest of America, for more than 200 years. The tour at Laura Plantation makes you part of this world, even if only for a few hours. This historic Creole gem in Plantation Country, west of New Orleans, offers a unique historic experience not possible in any other area of the world. The cultural charm of this Plantation, on the Mississippi River, is that it is much as it was generations ago, with sugarcane fields, the Plantation home, and former slave cabins.
Laura Plantation (first known as Duparc's Plantation) was built in 1805 by the Guillaume Duparc family, and existed as a plantation into the 20th century. The buildings include the main house, original slave quarters in addition to various outbuildings, and a mother-in-law cottage or 2nd house (maison de reprise) which was a common feature of plantations at the time the complex was established.
The slave quarters, which were occupied by plantation employees until the late 1970s, are one of the unique features of Laura Plantation. There are few such facilities still intact, and they are of such importance that they are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house was built on the Mississippi River, for purposes of convenient transportation by boat--both for visitors and supplies. The oak trees which grace much of southwest Louisiana shade the main house, which is filled with antiques--some donated by descendents of the original owners. Though much of the main house has been restored, some of it has been left untouched to give visitors a glimpse into Creole history.
Laura (the plantation's namesake) was the 4th mistress of Laura Plantation. She was born in the house in 1861, inherited it and ran the plantation as a sugar business until she sold it to Aubert Waguespack, who lived on and ran it until 1984.
Laura is one of only 15 surviving plantations in the state, and an actual reminder of the antebellum, post-Civil-war agricultural era in Louisiana.
- Arrive 15 minutes before your tour.
- Your tour is partly an outdoor experience, so dress for the weather with comfortable shoes.
- Laura is open rain or shine.
- The grounds and first floor of the Big House are wheelchair and stroller accessible; the Laura Plantation Store is also ADA compliant.
- Optimal seasons to visit: spring and fall.
- Read about Louisiana history & culture before you visit, especially the book of Laura's Memories, by Laura Locoul Gore--Memories of the Old Plantation Home.
Both the book and the tour are based on compelling, real-life accounts of generations of owners, women, slaves and children who called this typical Creole sugarcane farm their home. The guided tour is based upon 5,000 pages of documents related to this plantation discovered in the Archives Nationales in Paris, with the major stories coming from Laura's book.
The guided tour starts with a visit through the Maison Principale, built in 1805, into its raised basement and galleries, and into men's and women's chambers & offices, service rooms and common rooms. Even though you will see Laura's family heirlooms and their Creole furnishings, this portion of the tour spotlights the charmed but tragic lives of the plantation's inhabitants. Visitors are introduced to age-old Creole traditions and mores, and to the skilled workmanship of enslaved artisans.
After touring the Maison Principale, or main house, the visit moves onto the grounds, surrounded by sugarcane fields and 12 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour then winds into the plantation gardens: the formal Jardin Français, the kitchen garden, and Laura's new BananaLand. This part of the tour places visitors at the exact locations where stories recalling the sobering events of human slavery happened.
The tour concludes in one of the 1840s slave cabins where sugarcane workers lived until 1977, and where the ancient west-African folktales of Compair Lapin, better known as the legendary rascal, Br'er Rabbit were recorded.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN AREA
There are no shortages of places to see and things to do in Plantation Country, along the Mississippi River. The historical sites cover old traditions, cuisine (there are many excellent restaurants--both casual and upscale), music, folktales, commerce along the river, and the mysterious wilderness of the swamps.
- Laura Plantation, 888-799-7690; 225-265-7690
- Homas House (site of the movies Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte; A Woman Called Moses; and Fletch Lives, among others) 225-473-9380; 225-473-7841
- Oak Alley Plantation, 800-463-7350
- Destrehan Plantation, 985-764-9315
- San Francisco Plantation, 985-535-2341
- Evergreen Plantation, 985-497-3837
- Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, 800-467-0758
- Torres Swamp Tours, 985-633-7739
- Pleasure Bend Nature Tours, 225-265-7611
- B & C Seafood Market & Cajun Deli, 225-265-8356
- Spuddy's Cajun Foods, 504-265-4013
- Oak Alley Plantation, Breakfast & Lunch; Dinner for Special Events, 800-463-7350
- DJ's Grill, 225-265-7600
DETAILSLaura Plantation, 2247 Highway 18 (River Road), Vacherie, LA
Telephone: 225-265-7690 (Monday-Friday 9-5)
Laura Plantation is located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, on River Road, only 35 miles from the New Orleans Int'l Airport. It is open for daily tours with the exception of the Creole holidays of New Year's, Mardi Gras, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The guided tours begin at 10:00 am, with the final tour of the day at 4:00 pm (gates close at 5:00 pm).
There is an admission fee. Admission tickets (necessary for guided tours, and only guided tours are allowed) are available daily at the Ticket Office in the Laura Plantation Store, which opens at 9:30 am. Reservations are necessary for groups of 20 or more people, and suggested for groups of 10 - 19 people.