"A Step Back Into The Past"
Laura Plantation was about a two hour drive outside of New Orleans, but was well worth the drive. Laura is known as the American home of Bre'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. "Compair Lapin," the first publication featuring these characters, was written by Alcee Fortier. He heard the stories from the Senegalese slaves on Laura, and published them in French. A year later, Joel Chandler Harris published the same stories that he heard from slaves at a different plantation, but published them in English, and so his is the version we all remember today.
This is a view of the driveway from the house. The Creoles who lived on the plantations by the river used the river for transportation more than dry land. So, the "driveway" heads out to the river. Today, the only thing preventing a beautiful view of the river is the levee, but the locals don't seem to mind, since the levee also prevents yearly floods! Our tour guide said they have been lucky, and haven't had a flood in almost thirty years.
"A Thriving Business...or two...or three..."
Laura was chiefly a sugar cane plantation, but was also home to a couple of other businesses at the same time.
The lives of the DuParc & Locoul family are told in a book written by Laura Locoul Gore (who the plantation is named after), "Memories of the Old Plantation Home." Laura wrote the book long after she had sold the plantation when her children asked her if plantation life was really like it is depicted in "Gone With the Wind." Laura read of Scarlett and told her children that plantation life was nothing like that and then decided to write her own book.
The land that Laura stands on was originally given to Guillaume DuParc by the Spanish King Carlos in return for his services as commandente of the area. He later married Nanette Prud'homme (famous chef Paul Prud'homme is a relative)and had three children, Louis, Elisabeth, and Flagy. Laura's book states, "In 1808, before his first crop was sold, Guillaume Deparc, aged 52, died on the plantation, musket in hand, the owner of 27 pairs of white muslin pantaloons." The book does not explain this further. In his will, Guillaume gave the plantation to his wife and children, and Nanette ran the plantation for 21 years. Nanette turned the plantation into a thriving business, producing not just sugar cane, but also lumber and livestock. Elisabeth was the child that Nanette picked to continue running the plantation, and she did it well, but is never mentioned with a kind word in Laura's memoirs. Laura is known to have felt early on that if running the plantation meant becoming like her grandmother, she didn't want to do it. Elizabeth married Raymond Locoul, who was from the Bordeaux region of France, and soon the plantation also became the only distributer of French wine in the whole United States. Elizabeth also started breeding her slaves, and soon had a third sucsessful business in the slave trade.
Here is a picture of the wine cellar in the basement of Laura Plantation.
"Maison de Reprise"
When Nanette retired at age 61, she still wanted to be a part of things, but the rule of the house was, if you weren't running the business, you weren't in the house. The plantation was considered just a business house, and "home" was always in New Orleans in the French Quarter. So, if you weren't helping with the business, you had no reason to be at the plantation. Well, Nanette didn't like this, so built a 6900 sq. ft. retreat house, just 500 ft. away from the plantation manor house, so she could keep an eye on things, albeit independently from the family business.
The company that has renovated much of the plantation is planning on beginning renovations to Nanette's house in the next couple years and turning it into a bed and breakfast.
Here's a picture of Nanette's retirement house as taken from the main house.
"Home in the French Quarter"
As mentioned before, "home" was the French Quarter for the Duparc-Locoul family. I understand they had many houses in New Orleans, and here is a picture of one of them. It is now home to the Olivier House Hotel. This house Laura mentions briefly in her book since it was right next to the opera house.
"More to Come!!"
There is much more to this story, so stay tuned and I will try to finish it soon!