Friday, January 9, 2009

Mansion Musings

I love looking at homes. I suppose I inherited this tendency from my mother who also loves a good open house adventure. I recall numerous times wandering through houses with her, enjoying a look-see at decorating ideas, different floor plans, etc. Our favorite homes to explore were the older homes with character, as my mother calls it. One of her dreams was to purchase a large Victorian style house and turn it into a bed and breakfast. We always thought that would be a lot of fun. A lot of work, but also enjoyable.

We have yet to accomplish such a thing, but not long ago, I was given an opportunity to travel to an area known for its houses with character. These fascinating homes are mansions that were built along the Mississippi River in the 1800's on the outskirts of New Orleans.

My husband and I took advantage of the opportunity to explore one of these lovely mansion homes during our trip to New Orleans. We had to be selective because our time was limited. So while I was able to take pictures of several of these beautiful historical homes, we only had time for one tour. It was hard to pick, but we settled on seeing the inside of the San Francisco Plantation House.

This is the San Francisco Plantation Mansion.

There was only one disappointment---we weren't permitted to take pictures inside the plantation house. It was explained that camera flashes were harmful to the interior of the mansion, so I obediently tucked my camera inside its case and left it there until we had returned back outside.

There was a fun little gift shop inside of what used to be the plantation store. We were told that each major plantation had its own store where those who worked on the plantation could purchase basic necessities. They were really into being self-sufficient in those days. =)

Inside this gift shop I found all kinds of treasures, including postcards that show the interior of the San Francisco Mansion. So I'll scan them in and share so you can have a glimpse of the elegance and grace that was once such a big part of the South.

The San Francisco Mansion house was constructed in 1856. Its original name was St. Frusquin. Derived from French slang it means, "Without a penny in my pocket." The cost of building this mansion house was high. Utilizing the old Creole open suite style, the main living area was located in the upper floor. Only the dining room and several service rooms were constructed on the main floor.

Valsin Marmillion was the original owner and builder of the San Francisco Plantation and home. His son, Charles, inherited the plantation. Charles served with the Confederate army during the Civil War. He suffered numerous hardships during several battles and was taken prisoner twice by Union forces. He died at the young age of 35 in 1875.

This is Charles Marmillion's Bedroom. What you are seeing are the authentic furnishings, including a single sleigh bed, a large wardrobe, and a washstand.

Above is a postcard that shows the Gentlemen's Parlor, one of several parlors located inside this mansion. This room has four hand-painted wood panels on the tongue-in-groove cypress ceiling. Each panel represents a season of the year. This room was used by the men of the house to discuss politics, sip brandy, and smoke cigars. The object on the marble topped-table is a stereoptican, used for viewing mid-nineteenth photographs with a 3-D affect. Basically a fancy view-master. ;)

This postcard shot shows the boudoir. It was used as a birthing chamber, a sitting, dressing, and "confinement" room. It was used by pregnant wives as a place of calmness where they could participate in activities like needlepoint, hand-sewing, etc. The room is furnished for the winter season with silk curtains extended from the ceiling.

Items we saw on the tour that weren't available on postcards would include:
1) One of the earliest treddle sewing machines
2) An impressive antique birdcage
3) An antique bed surrounded by mosquito netting
4) Two huge urns that were encased inside of a bricked floor in the pantry. These were used to store food items that needed to be kept cool.

Here are the mansion homes we had to appreciate from afar:

Oak Alley Mansion. This mansion has been used for several movie settings including "The Long, Hot Summer," and "Interview with the Vampire." It is famous for its alley of 300-year old live oak trees. It was built between 1837-1839.

This is the famed Evergreen Mansion. It was constructed in 1840. It utilizes Greek Revival style with the curving stair mounts to the second floor.

The final mansion house that we saw from a distance is the Ormond Plantation House. It was completed shortly before 1790, constructed with the Louisiana Colonial Style. This home was often used to entertain officials of the Louisiana and Spanish governments. It was named Ormond by its owner in 1805, Colonel Richard Butler. He named it after his ancestral home in Ireland, the Castle Ormonde.

We also stopped by what was left of the Laura Plantation. A fire had destroyed a goodly portion of the mansion house. It is being restored, but we were unable to see anything of it while we were there. We did wander through the gift shop on the Laura Plantation and I purchased a book entitled: "Memories of the Old Plantation Home," written by Laura Locoul Gore, the great-granddaughter of Guillaume DuParc, the man who had established the original plantation. It was a fascinating read and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history.

If you ever find yourself in the New Orleans area, I would encourage you to take the time to see these beautiful, historical homes. It's an experience you will savor.

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Cindy Beck said...

Wow, what beautiful mansions. My favorite picture of yours was Oak Alley Mansion. What cool trees!

Cindy Beck said...

You probably already know this, but if you have some readers who don't, they might find the info useful.

When shooting indoor shots, if the place will allow you to take photos without a flash, take your ISO up as high as your camera will allow, and if you have a tripod with you, use that as well.

Many times taking the ISO up will allow you to get the indoor shot. It might be a little grainy, but you can PhotoShop it later.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Thanks, Cindy. I like that picture, too. And thanks for the photo tips. I'm still not sure that the nice tour guide would have allowed pictures. They emphasized that their gift shop had plenty of postcards. It might have been a sneaky sales pitch. ;)