Throwback Tuesday: Belle Grove Plantation

by James on October 16, 2012

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!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Walsh October 20, 2012 at 1:19 am

Wow, I had not heard of this one before. It does remind me a lot of Nottoway. I can see why the owners would have a rivalry.

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Karin October 20, 2012 at 1:30 am

Thank you for this! I would also give a limb of some sort to explore this place/have it still be around. I am a freak for old buildings gah!

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James October 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

right there with ya…

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Lauren Nastasi October 20, 2012 at 2:12 am

These places are all so magnificent. Truly lost treasures.

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Aaron Hutchinson June 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm

There is nothing left of it today. The ruins were bulldozed after the fire due to instability. The massive columns were broken apart and buried right where the plantation home once stood. Today there is a small neighborhood over top of where the home once stood, there is also a marker on River Road, across the street from the massive Live Oaks that were in front of the plantation. If you want to find the location, go to Google maps and hit satellite view. Type in Stone Street, White Castle, Louisiana. Between Stone and Ware Street is where the massive home once stood. Hope this is of some help. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

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James June 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Aaron…thanks so much for the awesome info. Truly sad that this beauty is gone forever… Where are you from by the way?

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Aaron Hutchinson June 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

There is nothing left of it today. The ruins were bulldozed after the fire due to instability. The massive columns were broken apart and buried right where the plantation home once stood. Today there is a small neighborhood over top of where the home once stood, there is also a marker on River Road, across the street from the massive Live Oaks that were in front of the plantation. If you want to find the location, go to Google maps and hit satellite view. Type in Stone Street, White Castle, Louisiana. Between Stone and Ware Street is where the massive home once stood. Hope this is of some help. Let me know if you have anymore questions about this or any other plantation.

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Judie Kopfman August 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm

We have lost so many beautiful treasures in Louisiana, especially the old plantations. Once so elegant and proud, can you only imagine the stories they could tell? Love your photographs and descriptions. Thank you Aaron Hutchinson for providing more details.

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Michelle Foster September 17, 2013 at 12:01 am

I actually live on the land the great home once stood. I have 2 of the oak trees in my front yard. We still have tourist to come to visit our trees. I wish I knew more history of all the people who onced lived here. Strange things have happened around my home.

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James T Callahan July 19, 2015 at 6:35 pm

If you want to know more about the people who lived in Belle Grove here is a page with the best history on them I’ve yet found: http://www.warefamilies.org/2012/08/belle-grove-plantation-louisiana-and-the-ware-families-who-owned-the-land/
(*NOTE: The beginning of the article deals a lot with the genealogy; you have to get past that to get to the bulk of the story of the family and their life in the house.)

It’s the best article I’ve come across and I do a fair amount of research on historic plantation houses, especially those of Louisiana and in particular Belle Grove. The problem with other written histories of this house is that the story of The Ware Family is largely passed over, suggesting that they didn’t do much with it. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Wares owned Belle Grove for 56 years and were known for their wealth and opulent living. By comparison, the original owner and builder, John Andrews, only lived there for 10 years. During the Wares’ tenure Belle Grove continued to be a major sugar producing plantation, operated by 3 generations of Wares as a huge and high flying success.

There is also some discrepancy over the architect of Belle Grove. Some articles say it was the firm of James Gallier, Sr.; others indicate Henry Howard, which makes sense, as he also designed the neighboring Nottoway. Both firms, in fact, designed many Louisiana plantation houses. So this needs to be rectified.

In addition, the Library of Congress holds the complete 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) pictures and documents, a treasure trove of information about Belle Grove: https://www.loc.gov/search/?in=&q=Belle+Grove+Plantation&new=true.

~James

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James July 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Thanks a lot James. This is some great info! I’m an expert by no means…it was hard enough to find the info I did. Thanks again!

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