I would literally consider amputation of a limb to explore this place in it’s heyday. This was Belle Grove Plantation in White Castle (close enough to New Orleans), the premiere plantation of the south when it was built in 1857 for the cost of….wait for it…$80,000! Of course, that price doesn’t include the free slave labor. What’s sad is that I’ve read a few different forums where a couple of idiots have basically said it shouldn’t have been saved because of that fact. That somehow the entire ancient south should be burned because it was built by slave labor. Well, we might as well burn the White House and every other historical building in this country that was built before 1865. To have such an idiotic viewpoint is actually doing a disservice to the slaves that actually did labor on the place, not to mention the craftsman and artists from around the world that built this magnificence. This could NOT be built today, no matter how much money you threw at it.
Anyway, like I said it was built back in 1857 by John Andrews, a wealthy sugar planter. (What else? During the 1850′s while the house was being built, Andrews owned more than 150 slaves and was producing over half a million pounds of sugar a year. Soooo, he was rich.) It was designed by New Orleans architect Henry Howard, the same guy who designed the Nottoway Plantation just down the road. Apparently the two owners had an intense rivalry, so there was always the game of one-ups-man-ship to see who could build the most extravagant home. Luckily Nottoway is still standing today, and open for tours.
After the Civil War the whole plantation business model really didn’t work any more, and in 1867 the plantation was sold to James Ware for a lousy $50,000. After years of bad crops the family was forced to sell it in the 1920′s. It exchanged hands a few times after that, with each new owner vowing to restore the place, but it was abandoned in 1925…never to be occupied again. A couple of different factors played a role. First, it’s sheer size and opulence. Second, it’s faulty foundation and the soft shifting soil it was built upon doomed it from the beginning. Even just a decade after its abandonment entire wings off the house were already starting to collapse due to such issues. In 1952 it burned to the ground in a mysterious fire that most people are convinced was arson.
The good news is in was extensively photographed by many of the greats, including Frances Benjamin Johnston. A lot of the images are held in the Library of Congress, including the original floor plans. It’s an absolute shame this place still isn’t around, but I guess some things just aren’t meant to be.
If you have any other info or know anything about its condition today (or where it once stood), I’d love to hear about it- just leave a comment below!