Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Houmas House - Darrow, LA (The Gentlemen Oaks)

40136 Hwy 942
Darrow, Louisiana 70725

            If you ever want to take a nice joyride to see some beautiful scenery, look no further than River Road. Stretching for quite a distance, near Baton Rouge, there is no better place to experience quintessential Louisiana history, as this single road has some of the most beautiful and historic plantation homes that the state has to offer. One of the most illustrious homes on this road is Houmas House Plantation.
            The property has a vast history, dating back to the early 1700’s when the land was initially given to the Houmas Indians as a land grant. In the mid 1700’s the tribe then sold the land to Maurice Conway and Alexander Latil, where a small home was constructed. To this day, that original home is still intact and sits behind the current mansion.
            By the turn of the nineteenth century, the grounds were a large generator of sugar via its many acres of sugar cane harvesting. In 1810, Gen. Wade Hampton purchased the land with the hopes of building a large mansion on the property. His plans never quite came to fruition, as he sold the land to his daughter, Caroline, in 1825. Three years later, Caroline carried out her father’s wishes and construction was complete on the huge mansion. As sugar production flourished, the family continued increasing their land ownership, with their total land surpassing three hundred thousand acres!

            In 1857, the home and land was sold to Irishman, John Burnside for one million dollars, which must have been unheard of for the time. Burnside cranked out sugar production to epic
Massive Landscaped Yard
proportions, as Houmas House became the single largest producer of sugar in the country. This daunting feat almost came to a screeching halt, as the home was nearly destroyed by the Union Army during the Civil War, however being the slick businessman he was, Burnside received immunity as he claimed a subject of the British Crown.

            As successful as Burnside made Houmas House, this sugar plantation still had not seen its pinnacle, as it was sold to Col. William Porcher Miles in the late 1800’s. It was under his ownership that the farm grew to its largest, producing an amazing twenty million pounds of sugar per year! Talk about a diabetic’s nightmare!
            As I just mentioned with the previous location, with a great high comes a crashing low. See what I mean with Louisiana luck? Starting to see a pattern here? After terrible floods and the rise of the Great Depression, Houmas House quickly fell into disrepair. It remained in solitude until 1940 when Dr. George B. Crozat purchased and began to restore it to its original beauty. The home has since remained opened as a tourist attraction and has been featured in television and movie. Most notably, the 1963 Bette Davis film “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” was filmed here.
Movie Poster
            Houmas House has several very interesting haunted tails. The first begins with the massive oak trees that once surrounded the home. Once called the “gentlemen”, these gigantic trees served as a welcoming to visitors. When the great flood came in the twenties, it was determined that a levee system be constructed to prevent such devastation from recurring. Work crews made their way down River Road, clearing trees and creating a large levee. Houmas House stood the same fate, as when crews arrived, they began cutting down many of these beautiful trees. In a tragic accident, sixteen men with money on their minds lost their lives as they were attempting to float the gigantic trees down river to a mill in New Orleans to make a handsome profit. The caretaker awoke to an unbelievable site, as the next morning, the oak trees that were still standing had literally deformed themselves into sagging structures, almost to give the appearance of mourners. With all the years that these enormous trees had stood, it was unbelievable and unexplainable that they could deform the way they did, literally overnight. Some feel that the grounds are still haunted from those that perished in the adjacent river.
            Another haunting said to be at Houmas House is of a young girl and this one seems to be a bit more prominent. As extensive remodeling was being done in 2003, workers began seeing the
Cottage Bedroom
apparition of a young girl with dark hair, wearing a blue dress. She has often been seen wandering the home, descending the staircase then simply vanishing! Once renovation was complete and tourists began visiting the home, they also began reporting seeing a young girl in a blue dress wandering around. The biggest question remains; who is she?

            There are several theories as to who this young girl may be. Some feel she is the daughter of former owner, Col. William Porcher Miles, who died at the home when she was seven of an unknown illness. Her body was buried in a small graveyard on the grounds, which was later destroyed when the levee was built. Although the grave no longer exists, visitors feel her spirit may remain. Others believe the young female spirit belongs to the daughter of another former owner, Col. John Preston. She was extremely attached to the home before falling violently ill. Her parents moved back to South Carolina, where she died shortly thereafter. Then again, who’s to say that both young girls may still wander the grounds, playing as they once did?

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