5. Oak Alley, LA
Along Highway 18 from Evergreen is Oak Alley, known as the “Grande Dame of the River Road”. Like Evergreen, it has also been used as a filmset, featuring in Beyonce videos and the Brad Pitt/Tom Crusie movie “Interview with a Vampire.” It was modernized in 1925 to include new kitchen facilities and plumbing, but in every other way it still looks much like it did in 1837. It’s another Greek Revival-style home, with some French Creole elements, and has an impressive 28 columns surrounding the house. It’s also home to its own ghost – previous owner and benefactor Josephine Stewart is said to have been spotted in the Lavender Room. Presumably, she’s making sure the house is being well looked after…
4. Waverley, MS
Another plantation home said to be haunted is the magnificent Waverley in West Point, Mississippi. It was purchased by the Snow family in 1962 after years of neglect, and during the restoration Mrs Snow started seeing visions of a small girl, who called her “Mama”. Then she heard a ghostly child’s voice around the house, calling for her and tugging on her apron strings.
The hauntings continued for years, but she hasn’t been spotted since 1990. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other spooks to keep you company if you visit, including a ghostly horse and rider in the extensive grounds. Ghosts aside, it is a beautifully restored house and one of the best preserved houses in Mississippi.
3. Destrehan, LA
This French-owned sugar plantation was so powerful that an entire settlement built up around it, which now has a population of 11,535. It was built in 1790 and was a successful plantation before being turned into a refinery in 1914. The refinery closed in 1959 and the house fell into disrepair before being donated to the River Road Historical Society in 1971. It had now been restored and is open to the public, for tours and colonial-era crafts.
As with so many plantation homes, there is some darkness in its history – specifically the St. Charles Parish Tribunal, which found 18 slaves guilty of taking part in a revolt (the 1811 German Coast Uprising). The uprising resulted in the deaths of 2 white men and 95 black men in the subsequent trials. They are remembered every year by the African American History Alliance of Louisiana. It’s a beautiful house, but it is worth taking a moment when visiting to remember them too.
2. Liberty Hall, GA
This plantation was run a little differently to the rest – it was home to Alexander H. Stephens, vice President of the Confederacy, and the slaves there were well treated. There was no overseer, they were not whipped and even after their liberation, most stayed on working for him as freemen. In fact, two of his slaves, known as Harry and Eliza, cared for him until his death.
This may surprise those who know Stephens for his “Cornerstone” speech, in which he implied that black men were inferior to white men and that they should be enslaved. In fact, the speech was quoted out of context and didn’t reflect his personal views on slavery. Visitors to his former home – Liberty Hall in Crawfordville – can learn the story of Harry and Eliza in their cottage that stood behind the main house. The Hall is the center of the A.H. Stephens Historic Park, a 1,177 acre park devoted to his memory. Well worth a visit
1. Millford, SC
Of all the Greek Revival-style plantation houses, it is Millford, SC that is often considered to be the best. Majestic inside and out, with 6 huge Corinthian columns, it was built in 1839 and still retains a lot of its 19th century furniture and fittings. It has survived many things, including the Civil War although it was under threat when Union troops arrived on April 19, 1865. Luckily, their commanding officer was a General Elmer Potter and his brother Nathaniel was the architect who had designed Millford. So the great mansion lived to see another day, and is now under the delicate care of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, who have restored it to its former glory.