Rosedown Plantation, St. Francisville, Louisiana.
The sun was shining strong the morning we drove north on US Highway 61. Just about twenty minutes north of Baton Rouge, in the quiet, historic town of St. Francisville, we arrived at our destination: Rosedown Plantation. It was a splendid September morning, perfect for taking in the natural beauty of this one-hundred-and-eighty-year-old estate. After passing through the entrance, we paid the ten dollar entry fee (per person) and were directed to enter the grounds through a small path that led through tall azalea bushes and even taller cypress trees. Spanish moss draped the canopy above. Right away, we discovered that Spanish moss was not the only material hanging about.
Spread across the path were many large webs with these rather alarming looking banana spiders sitting directly in the center of them. These are actually a fairly common site down here in Louisiana, as my kids can tell you from growing up in the country. Run around playing hide and seek in the myrtle bushes and you're going to run into this yellow fellow eventually. My wife can still remember her childhood experience of walking into a web and seeing the spider start towards her. Her uncle pulled her out of the web in time to prevent her from being bitten but not soon enough to erase the nightmares. Though everyone here calls them banana spiders, they are actually golden silk orb-weavers. Their webs are spectacular works of art, and though they will bite and their venom is similar to a black-widow bite, it is far less powerful. But I didn't want to test that theory. However, once we were on the paths of the North Garden, there was no way to get out except under and around all the webs. So we crouched, and walked very slowly until we made it out into the open approach to the house.
|There were no identifying marks that I could find on|
these statues, so this could either be one that
represented a season or any of the mythological characters.
As we stepped into the open, we were treated to an iconic view of the plantation house down a lengthy avenue of oak trees. On an ancient brick base, I found a faded plaque which read:
STATUES: THE CARRARA MARBLE STATUES WERE PURCHASED IN ITALY IN 1851 WHEN MARTHA AND DANIEL TURNBULL AND THEIR DAUGHTER, SARAH, TOURED EUROPE. THOSE ALONG THE AVENUE ARE NAMED FOR MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTERS AND THE SEASONS. THE FOUR FACING ROSEDOWN HOUSE REPRESENT THE CONTNENTS (sic).
There was no statue on this base. There were several bases which seemed to be missing their statues. However, there were still several of the statues in attendance along the avenue, and the four figures representing the continents still face the house. I wanted to linger along the avenue, however, the house tour was about to begin, as it was 10:55 and the tours begin every hour on the hour. So we walked through the shade of the oaks and approached the front porch.
|The front approach to the house, as seen from its|
balcony. Two of the Carrara marble statures that
represent the continents can be seen on the left.
The stately feel of that approach is truly spectacular. These formal gardens were designed and built over a twenty year period under the direction of Martha Turnbull after that grand tour of Europe. She is said to have been influenced heavily by the formal gardens she saw there. I can believe it. Having recently been to Versailles and the Tuileries gardens, I can say that Rosedown, while not as large as those sites, can certainly stand in their company without shame. Rosedown's gardens were in fact some of the only formal gardens found in the United States in the 19th century.
Rosedown is far too extensive and fascinating to cover it in one blog, so I'll stop here for now. Next post we'll look at the interior of the house. A third post will cover the formal gardens.
|The avenue of oaks leads to this idyllic walkway, which leads to the front porch. It was easy to imagine|
riding up the avenue in a carriage. Despite the heat of the day, it was pleasant under the shade of the oaks.
Like the photograph of the approach to Rosedown at the top of this post? It is available as a coffee mug at the following link.