Monday, August 23, 2010

Death of a plantation a very late obituary

While the Louisiana Graveyard Rabbit attempts to introduce its readers to Louisiana cemeteries and graveyards through this blog, the author is making an exception for the death of a piece of history in this unremarkable story that is more like an obituary.

The Acadia Plantation was dismantled in April 2010 by its owner. The Louisiana National Register of Historic Places may have, at the time of the April 2010 blog authors writing, taken the transcript of the plantation down from its website. It is now online with the addendum: DESTROYED 2010.

Read more about Acadia Plantation from someone who grew up in the home, Through the Dust: Demolition at Acadia and from Wounded Bird: Good Bye Acadia Plantation.

The Louisiana National Register of Historic Places had this information concerning the nomination of the historic home site.

Describe the present and original (if known) physical appearance
The Acadia Plantation nomination has both an archaeological and standing structures
component, as outlined below:
The Acadia Plantation archaeological site is located south of Bayou Lafourche, along the
crest of the natural levee. Highway 1 is now approximately 50 meters to the north, and Nicholls State
University is approximately 500 meters to the west-northwest.
The nominated area now includes pastures, a house--formed of earlier structures, and
plantation outbuildings. This encompasses the original locations of late-eighteenth and
early-nineteenth century Acadian homes and probably includes remains of Acadian farm
outbuildings, as well as archaeological deposits associated with mid- to late-nineteenth century
homes and an early sugar mill. The sugar house, built in 1830, was located southwest of the house
that is standing today. It was used until a new sugar mill was built in another area in 1854. Slave
quarters and an overseer's house probably were near the original sugar mill.
The areas where the Acadian homes were located as well as the areas where the early
sugar mill and slave quarters may have been are all in pasture. They have been disked to a depth of
two to three inches, but have never been plowed for agriculture, or otherwise deeply disturbed. Land
surrounding the nominated area is used for agriculture and has been plowed. Therefore, it is unlikely
to have intact deposits.
The succession of ownership of the land is well-documented. The Plater family, current
owners of the plantation, have copies of original documents of sale, sheriff's sale inventories, slave
lists, and structural inventories. The Lafourche Parish Courthouse also houses Conveyance
Records from the nineteenth century that document the early property owners at Acadia.
Through these records, it is known that Acadian farmers first settled along Bayou Lafourche
at Acadia in the late 1700s. Their farms were long and narrow, so many owners could have bayou
frontage. Bayou Lafourche provided the transportation link with the rest of the region.
Records do not show when the first Acadians arrived, but by 1812, the nominated area had
three owners. Pierre Gadre owned Section 34, Jean Morange owned Section 35, except for the
upper one arpent, which Nicholas Lanie owned.
This upper portion of Section 35 is the location of the "east locality" archaeological site.
When Lanie sold this land to James Bowie in 1828 it included "improvements," which probably
referred to a house and other structures.
The area now called the "west locality" archaeological site in Section 34 was bought from
Gadre by Henry S. Thibodaux, then sold to Mr. Picout in 1818, who owned it until his death. The
Picout estate sold it to Stephen Bowie in 1830, and the records of sale show that a small house was
on the property at that time.
Thus, it is documented that the nominated area was settled by Acadian farmers who later
sold the land to the Bowie brothers. James Bowie, known for his dueling exploits, may have lived in
Rapides Parish during the time of Acadia ownership. Stephen lived in Lafourche Parish, possibly at
Acadia, and served as the parish sheriff in the 1830s. Rezin, designer of the Bowie knife, served in
the state legislature and lived in Lafourche Parish. He probably lived at Acadia and managed the
first steam-powered crushing mill in the state. It is this mill that was located southwest of the big
house now standing. The Bowies sold the plantation to three men from Natchez, Mississippi in 1831,
and subsequently the property changed hands many times.
The Plater family, knowledgeable about this history, had observed artifacts in the west locality and
east locality. They invited archaeologists from the Louisiana State Archaeologist's Office to visit
Acadia in 1976, and they have subsequently funded test excavations at the site. The archaeologists
who recorded the site conducted a pedestrian survey, with shovel testing and probing. They
investigated two apparent house sites, at the north end of Section 34 and at the north end of Section
In the west locality, they recorded midden and artifacts over an area 50m (NE-SW) by 130m
(NW-SE). The material collected included ceramics, glass, brick fragments, and oyster shells. The
artifact types suggested an occupation throughout the nineteenth century.
In the east locality, they recorded artifacts over an area of approximately 35m (NE-SW) by
65m (NW-SE). A large percentage of the ceramics were pearlware or creamware, suggesting an
occupation in the early nineteenth century. The size, depth, and materials observed are those
expected for historic houses. This initial recording and survey suggested that the east locality may
have been the Acadian house sold to James Bowie in 1823. If so, it does not appear to have been
occupied after that time.
The west locality, however, was occupied during and after the time Stephen Bowie lived at
Acadia. It may have been the Acadian residence sold to Bowie. Based on the time it was used, this
could also have been the location of one of the houses that was consolidated to form the large
house that is now standing.
Additional archaeological testing in the east and west localities was directed by Richard
Beavers of the University of New Orleans. Three test pits were placed in the west locality, revealing
a midden 15cm thick. The corner of a brick pier, artifacts, and a layer of brick rubble were
uncovered. About 10 percent of the ceramics were creamware and pearlware, substantiating earlier
findings that the area dates to the nineteenth century.
One test pit was placed in the east locality, and brick paving and ceramics were recovered.
Pearlware and creamware accounted for approximately 73% of the ceramics, confirming the earlier
finding that the area appears to date to the last quarter of the eighteenth century. or the first part of
the nineteenth century. No testing has been conducted in the area that may be the location of the
1830 sugar mill, but it is likely that it, along with an overseer's house and slave quarters, remain in
the triangular-shaped pasture southwest of the standing house.
The present standing structures at Acadia include a c.1890 frame Queen Anne Revival
main house, two contemporaneous cottages, and several relatively modern outbuildings. Although
the main house has been altered, it still retains enough of its Queen Anne Revival-Eastlake styling to
merit National Register listing.
According to family history, the present main house was assembled from three older houses
in about 1850. The resulting composite structure was raised seven feet and renovated in the Queen
Revival style in about 1890. An early photograph shows two of the houses before they were
"assembled." The fact that such a photograph exists tends to indicate that the house was probably
moved together in the later nineteenth century rather than in 1850. However, speculation on this
point is moot because the 1890 renovation was so complete that there is virtually nothing visible
from the earlier houses. For all intents and purposes one is dealing with a c.1890 structure.
The house has a rambling cruciform plan with ten major rooms on the principal story. One
approaches Acadia via two flights of steps which ascend a full story to an elaborate Eastlake gallery.
This gallery makes a total of four ninety degree turns as it runs from one side of the house to the
other. The gallery culminates in an open columnar turret which at one time had a faceted conical
roof. The main entrance of the house is marked by an oeil-de-boeuf gable supported by two
enormous sunburst brackets. Each of the Eastlake gallery columns is surmounted by a rounder
bracket ornamented with pateras. The balusters are rather unusual, being square with rowder-cut
The complex roofline consists of a central pyramid with gabled wings coming off on all four
sides. Dormers are of two types--gablets and the more conventional sash window type. All of them
are ornamented with oeil-de-boeuf motifs. Overall, the roofline features a total of fifteen gables
(including the dormers). The roofline is further enlivened by a central ornamental vent stack and five
Each of the principal gables is ornamented with imbricated shingles. At one time they also
featured a large oculus and decorative vergeboards, but these were removed in the 1930s. (Each
oculus was replaced by a conventional sash window.
Other noteworthy exterior features include the oculus windows at the basement level, the
window and door cornices, and the shutters, most of which are original to the 1890 period. The
interiors are spacious but fairly plain. Essentially the floor plan takes its shape around an off-center
hall. Many of the rooms were reworked with a Georgian-looking panel treatment in the 1940s. Also
at about that time part of the hall was enlarged to form a living area and small rear and side
extensions were built.
Assessment of Integrity:
The statement of architectural significance is concerned with Acadia as it existed after 1890.
Despite the changes the house has undergone since that time, it still retains enough significant
features to establish its local architectural importance (see Item 8).
The archaeological east and west localities are listed as contributing elements. Architectural
contributing elements are shown as solid dark shapes on the attached to-scale map. They include
the main house, two cisterns, and two servants cottages, all of which are contemporaneous. The
early dependencies illustrate the type of support structures a large plantation house of the
late-nineteenth century would have had. Non-contributing elements are shown on the map as hollow
outlined shapes. They include two garages, two sheds, two small houses, two barns, and a stable,
none of which date from the period of architectural significance.
Specific dates late 18th-19th century (archaeology)
c.1890 (house)
Builder/Architect Uncertain (house)
Statement of Significance (in one paragraph)
Acadia Plantation is of state significance in the area of historic archaeology and of local
significance in the area of architecture.
The archaeological components of Acadia Plantation provide an unusual opportunity to
study Acadian farmsteads of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and to document
consolidation of these farmsteads into a bayou-focused sugar plantation in the nineteenth century.
Test excavations have shown the archaeological deposits at Acadia to be intact and well preserved.
Study of these in the future will provide information that is not available at other sites of their age and
that will contribute to the understanding of eighteenth and nineteenth century Louisiana.
As discussed in Louisiana's Comprehensive Archaeological Plan, the most notable
immigrants to the state during the late eighteenth century were the Acadians. However, knowledge
of sites where they settled is meager and attempts to locate them have had disappointing results.
Acadian farmsteads are identified in the plan as rare in expected frequency, and in fact, only one
Acadian site of any kind is listed in the plan. Two others, in addition to Acadia, are now in the
Louisiana site files, but these are both described as plantations. Small farmsteads are more typical
of Acadian settlement patterns. Acadia is unique in having at least two farmsteads on the property.
Also, according to Louisiana's Comprehensive Archaeological Plan, very little research has
been conducted at sugar plantations in Louisiana. Of the sugar plantations listed in the plan, all but
one is on the Mississippi River. The other is on the Ouachita River, leaving no examples of
bayou-focused sugar plantations. The only sugar plantations other than Acadia where excavation
work has been conducted are on the Mississippi.
The early development of the plantation can be studied at Acadia because the 1830s sugar
house, slave quarters, and overseer's house were abandoned in 1854 when new ones were built in
another area. This gives an opportunity to study remains known to date to a brief time period. Areas
around houses used in the nineteenth century are known to have been in pasture since the latter
part of the century, and thus, archaeological deposits are preserved.
In summary, "Acadia represents a pattern of early settlement and consolidation common to
small bayous, exemplifies the pattern of development of these plantations, provides a distinct
contrast to patterns known for the large land grants along the Mississippi River and is rare in having
remained a unit ...." (Beavers 1983:105).
Specific research goals identified in the plan that have been, or can be, addressed at Acadia
include the following:
1. "Obtain basic locational data on colonial agricultural complexes like ... early
Acadian farmsteads."
2. "Examine the ties between Louisiana and French Canada.... Where were the initial
Acadian settlements?"
3. "Examine the role, regional diversity, and history of Louisiana's antebellum
plantation society. What differences existed between the cotton plantation and the
sugar plantation...?"
4. "Investigate the small antebellum farmstead. What differences exist between the
small Acadian farmstead and the Upland South farmstead? What relationships
existed between them and the large plantations? Between these farmsteads and
the rural villages?"
5. "Define any differences identifiable in the archaeological remains of antebellum
ethnic enclaves like the free blacks, Creoles, urban Irish, Acadians and those of
mixed ancestry."
Acadia also can provide answers to these questions:
1. What outbuildings were associated with Acadian farmsteads?
2. How is the 1830s land consolidation reflected in the archaeological record? Were
Acadian homes abandoned or reoccupied?
3. What was the design of an early steam-driven sugar mill?
4. How do the early nineteenth century slave quarters and the overseer's house
compare to those of the latter half of the nineteenth century?
The main house at Acadia is locally significant in the area of architecture as a landmark
among late nineteenth-early twentieth century residences in Lafourche Parish. There is no doubt
that if Acadia had not suffered the losses of integrity described in Item 7, it would be far and away
the most impressive late nineteenth/early twentieth century residence in Lafourche Parish. Even in
its altered state, it is still a residential landmark of the period. Its long and elaborate Eastlake gallery
is a feature found on only four other period residences in the parish. In addition, complex rooflines
were a favorite Queen Anne Revival device, and Acadia's is one of the five most elaborate
examples in the parish. Indeed, with well over thirty roof planes, Acadia's roofline is probably more
complicated than any other. Despite the loss of the conical turret top, the turret shape which remains
still contributes much to Acadia's elaborate massing. Of course, Acadia is inferior in this respect to
the five other Queen Anne Revival residences in the parish that completely retain their turrets. But it
is superior to the hundreds of other period residences that do not have even the semblance of a
turret. Finally, Acadia is a vast rambling house that in many ways has the architectural stature of a
villa. It is easily the largest example of the Queen Anne Revival style in Lafourche Parish.
Major Bibliographical References
Beavers, Richard C., 1983, Preliminary Archaeological Reconnaissance and Assessment of A
Plantation, Research Report No. 6, Archaeological and Cultural Research Program,
University of New Orleans, New Orleans.
Old photos in possession of Plater Family.
Louisiana Historic Structures Survey, Lafourche Parish.
Amazon books about - Louisiana Cemeteries


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