Catalpa Plantation House, surrounded by large oak trees
Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours,
Foundation for Historical Louisiana
view of Catalpa
Photograph from National Register
Catalpa Plantation is one of numerous
late Victorian cottages found across Louisiana, significant for the beautiful
gardens that surround it. The oak trees lining the grounds were planted
in 1814, and Catalpa's oak alley is thought to be the only one in Louisiana
which has an elliptical shape. Primarily a cotton plantation in the antebellum
period, Catalpa's grounds were devastated during the Civil War, and the
plantation house burned. Mr. Fort, the owner, died during the Civil War.
In 1885, his son, William J. Fort, rebuilt Catalpa and it is this house
that still stands. Although it is often referred to as a "Victorian cottage,"
the house is in fact quite large. It has a two room deep main block with
a central hall and a large rear wing with a central hall of its own. Double
doors separate the two central halls. The rooms are large, and finished
with standard late-19th century details. Catalpa Plantation House is important
for its false marbled mantels. During the late-19th century manufactured
cast-iron and slate mantels were sometimes given a marble treatment. This
work was done by hand, but at the factory rather than on-site. The mantels
at Catalpa are important as examples of Victorian art because they show
the Victorian fondness for elaborately contrived effects.
The slave cabin behind the Catalpa Plantation was built of pit-sawn
timber. Originally the cottage had no gallery, but a new roof and a
gallery were added around 1900. North-northeast of the house is a sizable
pond that, according to Fort family history, dates from the antebellum
period. The pond is one of the surviving elements of what was once an
extensive landscaped garden. Catalpa's alley is one of a limited number
of plantation oak alleys which survive across the state. The exact date
of the oak alley is uncertain, while family history indicates that it
dates from the early 19th century, the scale of the trees indicates
that the alley has stood for about 120 years.
Catalpa is located at 9508 US Hwy. 61, 5 miles north of St. Francisville.
The house is open daily for tours 1:00pm to 4:00pm, but closed from
December 15-January 31. There is a fee for admission. Call 225-635-3372
for further information.