Located approximately 60 miles outside of the French Quarter, Oak Alley Plantation is of historic significance and a must-see for any visitor to the region. Situated on the shores of the Mississippi River in the town of Vacherie just off of Highway 18, Oak Alley has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the plantation is the double row of live oaks that measures approximately 262 yards long. The trees were planted in the early 1700s as a path to the river. The house itself was built between 1837 and 1839 for Jacques Telesphore Roman. The grand estate was most likely designed by the owner’s father-in-law, Joseph Pilie, who was an architect. The plan of the house is simple – a square with a central hall that runs through the house from back to front on both floors. The exterior features a stunning colonnade of 28 free-standing columns in the Doric style, that surround the mansion on all sides.
Perhaps the most significant claim to fame of this plantation was the botanical advances made by one of the slaves who lived and worked on the property. Named simply, Antoine, this Creole gardener became an expert grafter of the land’s pecan trees. He eventually engineered a new variety of pecan with a thin shell that was dubbed the “paper shell” pecan, also known as the Centennial Variety. Although Antoine’s trees had been cleared from Oak Alley, this variety can still be found throughout southern Louisiana.
Before the Civil War, the plantation was a producer of sugar cane. Although it was heavily damaged during the war, the farm and house were sold at auction in 1866. By the 1920s, the property had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was purchased in 1925 by Andrew and Josephine Stewart, who hired an architect to begin the painstaking restoration process. When Josephine Stewart passed away, management of the plantation fell into the hands of a non-profit organization who opened the house and grounds for tours.