Oakley Plantation House
Courtesy of the Capital Resource
Conservation and Development Council
and servants house located behind the main house
Photograph from the National
Arriving at Oakley Plantation on
June 18, 1821, the young aspiring naturalist John James Audubon wrote:
"The rich magnolias covered with fragrant blossoms, the holly, the beech,
the tall yellow poplar, the hilly ground and even the red clay, all excited
my admiration." Audubon's stay at Oakley lasted only four months, but
he painted 32 of his famous bird pictures here and developed a love for
the beautiful West Feliciana Parish. Mrs. Lucy Pirrie brought the young
Audubon to Oakley as a tutor for her daughter, Eliza. The arrangement
required that Audubon spend half his time teaching drawing to Eliza, but
he was otherwise free to roam the woods and work on his naturalistic paintings.
For this Audubon was to receive 60 dollars a month plus room and board
for himself and his 13-year-old pupil assistant, John Mason. Audubon returned
at a later date to join his wife, then teaching there, and his son. He
wrote, "Numerous pupils desired lessons in music, French and drawing.
. .the dancing speculation fetched two thousand dollars; and with this
capital and my wife's savings I was now able to foresee a successful issue
to my great ornithological work." This work was later to become Audubon's
famous Birds of America.
Oakley Plantation House is located in the Audubon Memorial State Park
in West Feliciana Parish. Construction on the house began in 1799, when
Ruffin Gray, a successful planter from Natachez, Mississippi, moved
here on land purchased from the Spanish authorities. Gray died before
the house was completed, and his widow Lucy Alston oversaw its completion.
She later married James Pierre of Scotland. Eliza, the daughter of James
Pierre and Lucy, was born here in 1805, and it was her future education
that introduced Audubon to the Felicianas. Oakley's interior has been
restored to the Federal period style (1790-1830), reflecting its appearance
when Audubon stayed here. The three-story home expresses the colonial
architecture adapted to the geographical location. Oakley Plantation
House contains 17 rooms, with front and side entrances leading to the
landscaped grounds, which are shaded by oak and ancient crape myrtle
Oakley Plantation House, within Audubon Memorial Park, is located
41/2 miles southeast of St. Francisville on State Hwy. 965., off US
Hwy. 61. It is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, there is a fee for
adults, but children under 13 and seniors are free. Call 225-635-3739
for more information or visit the park's website.