Lakeside Plantation

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Lakeside Plantation, near Batchelor, Louisiana, built 1832. Photo copyright 2007, The New York Times Company.

Lakeside Plantation, near the isolated town of Batchelor, Louisiana, is a particularly graceful and charming example of early 19th century Louisiana plantation architecture. Built on land at one time owned by the Marquis de Lafayette, it has been quite well preserved, and now fashionably spruced up, by its current owner, the New York artist Hunt Slonem, who owns another ante-bellum house, Albania Plantation, on Bayou Teche, near Jeanerette. For an informative and really quite amusing account of Hunt’s life at Lakeside Plantation today, including some very good photos, be sure to read this article which appeared a few years ago in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/31/garden/31hunt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

Batchelor, Lousiana, is located in Pointe Coupée Parish, which is part of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area. The parish seat is New Roads, near which is the well-known Parlange Plantation, built in 1750, a classic example of the French Colonial Style of plantation house, home of the Tenant and Parlange families, whose descendants still live there.  Lakeside has been the home of the Stewart and Batchelor families. As for the latter, you can view a summary of the archived family papers, which include much information on Lakeside, at the website of the Louisiana State University: http://lib.lsu.edu/special/findaid/1293.pdf Though Lakeside is in prime sugar cane country, and was the largest sugar producing estate in the north part of Pointe Coupée parish before and after the Civil War, its owners experimented with cotton production during the Reconstruction period. You can read a bit more about this era in articles in the really interesting issues of ‘The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer’, a now long defunct periodical which published news relating to the Louisiana sugar business well into the early 20th century, and whose articles often include interviews with and obituaries of plantation owners who had been among the great sugar plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South. Many of these articles are available to researchers at the academic website, http://www.jstor.org. You might even have access through your local public library, and not realize it. It’s a tremendous trove of information on all kinds of things.

Unfortunately the U.S. Government Historic Buildings Survey, which photographed and otherwise recorded many details of southern architecture in the 1930’s, does not seem to have preserved anything but a blurry exterior photo of Lakeside taken during that period and some drawings of the two matched pigeonniers, or dovecotes, which are a peculiar feature of some Lousiana plantation homes and which are to be found at Lakeside. But Lakeside’s present, under Hunt Slonem, is quite opulent in its own way. And if you get really interested in the Louisiana sugar phenomenon, you will have no lack of things to study. A good start would be John B. Rehder’s ‘Delta Sugar: Louisiana’s Vanishing Plantation Landscape’ (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1999), which examines the gradual disintegration of historic plantation architecture against the backdrop of a changing sugar industry and post-Civil War culture. You might also take a look at the work of the 19th century plantation painter, Marie Adrien Persac (1823-1873). In relation to this artist and others, I can recommend John Michael Vlach’s ‘The Planter’s Prospect: Privilege and Slavery in Plantation Paintings’ (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2001), and the fine biography of Persac, including many illustrations, by Reeves Bascot, published by Louisiana State Univ. Press in 2000.

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Entry Hall, Lakeside Plantation. Photo copyright 2007, The New York Times Company.

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