Durig our most recent visit to New Orleans, Marty and I decided to get out of the city and see some new sights. Since we are huge history lovers, we were amazed that we have yet to visit any of the plantations around this great city. After some research, we decided that our first tour would be Evergreen Plantation, part of the River Road Plantation network.
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Why Did We Choose Evergreen Plantation?
There are so many gorgeous plantations on River Road that made choosing just one a difficult decision. While researching, Evergreen intrigued me since it is the only plantation on the National Registry of Historic Places. Evergreen is also the most intact plantation in the South with 22 of its original slave cabins still in place on the land. All of this coupled with the beautiful Greek Revival style plantation house convinced Marty and me that Evergreen Plantation would be a great “first plantation” visit.
Getting to Evergreen Plantation
Evergreen Plantation is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, making it an easy day trip from either city. Since we had driven to New Orleans, we just hopped in our car and headed out on the quick journey toward River Road. If you don’t have your personal car, you can, of course, rent a car and head out on your own like we did, or you can book a tour and allow the experts to do all the work for you. If driving yourself, be sure and check out Evergreen’s website to plan your day. When we visited they were only offering two tours a day, Monday-Saturday at 11:30 or 2:00.
Arriving at Evergreen Plantation
Our GPS took us right to Evergreen Plantation without any issues. Do take note, that you drive past the beautiful plantation home and enter a couple of driveways away. Look for the signs marked “tours” on the fence. Once you enter the driveway, you will see an old house on the right-hand side with a small parking lot beside it. Park here and then head inside to pay and sign up for your tour.
While waiting, check out the little museum inside the visitor center, taking special note of the original drawing of the house as it has changed dramatically since its inception. Also interesting is the list of “belongings” listing the slaves as possessions of the owners. If you have time, pop outside and look at the small garden as well.
Evergreen Plantation Tour
Once your tour time arrives, you will hop back into your car and follow your guide up the gorgeous tree lined road toward the main house. We found out during the tour that this beautiful tree-lined drive leads back to the plantation’s land that is still used to raise sugar cane. These trees do not date back to the inception of the plantation. They were planted when this new road was built. You see, the original road cut right down the middle of the original slave cabins, and the owner did not want these historic landmarks damaged by the passing farmers.
After parking, you will convene with your group by the small orchard behind the plantation house. Take a moment to look around at the beautiful scenery surrounding you.
On the walk up to the back of the house, you will see some slave cabins directly behind the plantation home. Now, don’t be deceived, these are not the original slave cabins. The cabins located right behind the home were movie props left behind after they were used to film the remake of the movie Roots.
Our tour began at the back of the house. Here we were able to see many of the original buildings of the plantation including the two pigeonniers (structures used to house the pigeons), two garconieries (houses for the family’s boys), the kitchen, guesthouse, and the upscale (of the time) privy. Now you might be wondering why I said their privy (outhouse) was considered upscale. Well, because it was built for two. There are two separate sides so if someone is using one side, there is another side free. Pretty fancy for the time!
Evergreen Plantation’s Main House
The beautiful main house did not always look like it does today. Originally built in 1790 as a raised Creole farmhouse, it was later remodeled into the current Greek Revival style. See, this is why I told you to take note of the original plans in the visitor center.
I have to admit that I had a Scarlet O’Hara moment viewing those stairs. I could just see myself in this HUGE hoop skirt at the top of the stairs making my grand entrance to receive my guests. LOL!
Once inside (sorry picture were not allowed inside the main house) you will be treated to viewing beautiful antique furniture while touring a true Creole style house.
Evergreen’s Oak Alley and Slave Quarters
After touring the main house, we made our way down the gorgeous oak alley toward the original double row of slave cabins. The 22 slave cabins are what makes this plantation unique. These cabins still sit in the original area where they were located. Two rows with 11 cabins on each side intersected by a road lined with 220-year-old Spanish moss covered oak trees.
Although the slave cabins have had to undergo maintenance and repair, the owners have tried to maintain their original appearance as much as possible. There is really very little documentation regarding daily life for the slaves of Evergreen Plantation, so the tour guide was not able to answer many questions related to this. Despite that, the area is beautiful yet somber and was truly like walking through a history book.
I couldn’t help but feel humbled just being present in this historic place. My heart broke for the people that suffered through slavery. I found myself walking away from the group just to have a moment to absorb all of the feelings and energy that was being evoked in me from my surroundings. It was as if absorbing the silence helped me to understand better.
Summing Up Evergreen Plantation
Marty and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Evergreen Plantation and felt honored to have walked through this amazing piece of American history. At the time of our visit, the plantation tour was $20 a person, and we felt our 90-minute tour was worth every penny of that. Taking time to read some of the historical documents in the visitor center definitely helped to enhance the tour. We felt as though touring Evergreen Plantation allowed us to see a nice representation of what Louisiana plantation life entailed.
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