Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and touted as one of the best Plantation tours in the area, Laura Plantation is a must when visiting New Orleans. What makes this creole plantation so special is the focus on its people. You will go beyond the explanation of the main house and will be transported to the past. At Laura Plantation you will hear the compelling accounts of the charming and tragic lives of those who lived there, both the free and the enslaved.
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What is Creole in Louisiana?
Creole is a non-Anglo-Saxon culture and lifestyle that was predominant in Louisiana. With a French heritage and Roman Catholicism a big part of their identity. And a very elitist structure class, not necessarily about race, determined the social status. It is actually a big mix of West African with European and some Native American as well. Women could run business and own property and family and tradition were highly valued. Understanding what Creole meant is important because it is a very big part of the history of Louisiana.
Laura Plantation a Brief History
Acquired in 1804 by Guillame DuParc Laura Plantation is a creole plantation. The main house was completed 11 months later by highly skilled slaves using pre-fabricated methods. At Duparc’s death in 1808, the Plantation consisted of 10 buildings, including quarters for 17 slaves and a sugar mill.
One of the most interesting aspects of Laura Plantation is that it was run by four generations of women until it was sold by Laura Locoul (the great-granddaughter of Duparc) in 1891. Much of what we know about it is thanks to Laura’s memoire.
The family lived on the plantation from spring, when sugar cane was planted, till right after it was harvested late December. Then they move back to New Orleans for a few months of city life.
Each member of the family played an important role in the business. Extended family would also have a role and some other outsiders were hired as managers or overseers. But it was the slaves who accounted for about 80% of the population. And after their emancipation many continued to live there as they were so indebted to the owners they had no way of living anywhere else.
The Tour of Laura Plantation
The guided tour takes about 75 min and the guides are passionate and knowledgeable. The tour includes the Maison Principale or the Main House as well as the French gardens & kitchen gardens, barn and original 1840 slave cabins. Furthermore, additional areas of the plantation is being restored and in total there are 12 buildings on the National Register.
On the tour you will learn the history of the Plantation and about Laura’s family tree. Including the stories of the family and of the slaves. Guides will present the rigors of daily life and the dark aspects of the history of slavery which lasted over 140 years with Louisiana being the last place in North America where slavery was legal.
The Maison Principale
The tour starts in front of the Maison Principale where you learn all about what being Creole is. And if you have been on other Plantation tours like Oak Alley you will be able to see right away how different Laura Plantation is. Laura is much more colorful and less grand if you will.
Next stop is the basement where you get an introduction to the history of the plantation. In addition you will be introduced to the main members of the family and learn how the slaves built the house.
The tour continues on the colorful second floor porch and quickly moves inside where some air-conditioning has been installed for comfort (thank goodness because it was hot as hell). Inside the tale of each family member is recounted as you move through the restored rooms. Some fun quirky surprises await you inside but I won’t spoil the fun by telling you.
But here are a few pictures of the inside of the house:
The guide then takes you from the main house through the gardens, banana leave forest, and the barn to the slave quarters.
As you walk your way to the back of the property the guide will stop at the Barn to impart even more information about the slaves and their lives. And finally at the slave quarters you can see how poorly they lived and learn even more about the harsh reality of what life was like for a slave in Louisiana.
To me this is one of the things that really sets this plantation tour apart from the rest. They do a great job of enlightening people to the other side of life on a Plantation. Additionally, they share openly the stories of slavery and how even after slavery was abolished many had no choice but to stay. Furthermore, they do not romanticize the place and they provide a great historical view of all sides of life.
This is by far one of the best plantation tours I have ever been on. Therefore, I urge you to visit and listen to the stories directly from the guides. Their passion for history shines in their eyes and through their words as they make the past come to life through their stories.
Located midway between New Orleand and Baton Rouge in a town called Vacherie, Louisiana. For those coming from New Orleans it takes about 1 hr to get there.
Address: 2247 Hwy. 18, Vacherie, LA
Phone number: 225.265.7690 or 888.799.7690
How to get there
Best way to get there is by car. The area has many plantations that you can visit in one trip.
However, if you do not have a car, several tour companies can take you there. Cajun Encounter and Cajun Pride are two popular ones. But you can check trip advisor for reviews and to see other tour operators in the area.
Hours of Operation
Daily 9:30 am to 5:00 pm with first tour starting at 10:00 am.
Tours are available in English and French.
Closed on: New Years Day, Mardi Gras Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. PLease visit their website for more information on tour times and schedules.
At the time this article was written the cost of admission was as follows:
Children: 6 – 17: $6
Under 6: FREE
Some discounts for AAA, National Trust and military personnel
I had a coupon that came in my Visit New Orleans book therefore I was able to save a few dollars on admission cost. You can receive your own book by requesting one online. The book has great information about New Orleans as well as many valuable coupons you can use during your stay.
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