4. August 2010 20:23
When I started my day touring the Nottoway Plantation, I thought that this was the life. The 1859 white plantation is the largest remaining antebellum mansion in the South. I felt blown away by the size of it all with 14-foot-high ceilings that seemed to indicate the house was built for giants.
An elaborate bell system to call servants into every room, beautiful imported original furniture and a ballroom bathed in white seemed to complete the elegant style of the place.
However, like most things, when you scratch the surface things aren’t as perfect as they seem. The family finally moved into the house right before the Civil War, so no one got to enjoy it for very long. After the war, the owner John Randolph had to travel to Texas in an attempt to support the expensive mansion.
Not only that, but the incredibly large work force that it took to upkeep the plantation stayed hidden behind the mansion’s back door. I got to see what one of these villages of workers would have looked like at the LSU Rural Life Museum.
Here, historic buildings dating before the war show the impoverished lifestyle that the slaves and servants would have lived in on one of the South’s plantations. Though the Southern plantations will always be remarkable, the grim realities of the plantation’s work force reveal that things aren’t always what they seem.
Nottoway Plantation's white ballroom
LSU Rural Life Museum's example of a more typical house in the antebellum South
3. August 2010 20:01
Immediately upon driving into Baton Rouge, the tall tower created by former governor Huey Long rose above the surrounding buildings. The 1932 art deco state capitol building certainly stands out in the city’s skyline as the infamous Long intended.
After I toured the Old State Capitol built in 1847, I found it hard to image even the fame-seeking Long needed a work space more impressive than the original capitol’s Gothic Revival medieval castle architecture. The Old State Capitol’s imposing spiral staircase drew my upwards until I looked up at the breathtaking stain glass vaulted ceiling. In fact, every detail of the castle screams elegance down to the decorated door hinges.
The Old State Capitol is now a museum of political history with a new video presentation about the building’s dynamic history. The exhibit on Huey Long showed the two faces of one of Louisiana’s most controversial figures. The room had a reproduced crack running down the center to divide exhibits on the light and dark sides of Long.
On the positive side, Long improved roads, started a free textbook program and improved health care. On the darker side, Long seemed power-hungry and was almost impeached until he appointed himself senator.
Though his methods may be questionable, the beauty of the new state capitol Long built is undeniable with decorative marble, bronze details and a sweeping view of Baton Rouge from the capitol’s observation deck.
Vaulted ceiling of the Old State Capitol
Huey Long exhibit in the Old State Capitol
The new and current state capitol