On our second day in New Orleans, we took a quick 30-minute trip out to Destrehan to visit the oldest documented plantation mansion in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Built in 1787, the 4-acre plantation served as a home to Jean Noel Destrehan, one of the driving forces in Louisiana Statehood. Destrehan Plantation was the site where one of the three trials took place following the 1811 Slave Revolt, the largest slave revolt in U.S. History. During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the plantation and established the Rost Home Colony where newly freed slaves learned trades enabling them to transition into a life of freedom.
Now owned and operated by The River Road Historical Society, the plantation is one of Louisiana’s main attraction. The mansion and plantation grounds have been used as filming locations for movies: Interview with the Vampire and 12 Years a Slave. We had a pleasure touring the house and its grounds. The tour took an hour, led by a guide dressed in period clothing, and afterwards we saw a demonstration of how carpentry was done back then with simpler tools.
Engrossed in the history of the plantation, I did not bother to take pictures inside the house. The only room we were not allowed to take pictures in was The Jefferson Room, which contains the original treaty documents, purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France by the United States, and signed by Thomas Jefferson.
We learned a lot about Louisiana’s history: its ruling under Spain and France, and the difference of cajuns and creoles and how the two have impacted Louisiana culture and cuisine. The history of the Destrehan family was also interesting, and walking from room to room, we learned a lot about how people lived and worked then.
There is simply too much information regarding the Destrehan family and plantation. If you’re interested in plantations and history, this is a great visit. I just loved imagining how life was back then, fascinated by their everyday life and how different it is compared to modern times.