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In the mid-1800s, the highest concentration of millionaires in America could be found in south Louisiana along the Mississippi River, from New Orleans north to the region near Baton Rouge.

The region’s wealth came from massive sugar cane plantations. While the rest of the South cultivated cotton, Louisiana grew sugar and used the Mississippi River as a frontier freeway to get the crop to New Orleans and markets abroad.

Planters generated fortunes growing what they called “white gold.” Prior to the American Civil War, Louisiana was producing as much as half of the sugar consumed in America. In the 1850s alone, Louisiana sugar plantations produced an estimated 450 million pounds of sugar per year, worth more than $20 million annually.

That history is preserved today through about 30 plantation mansions from the era—homes where wealthy planters lived, conducted business and entertained peers and distinguished guests. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the homes annually, and are amazed by stunning architecture, elaborate furnishings and entertaining tales of life and livelihood in antebellum Louisiana.

Each plantation offers something different from its corridor counterparts, making visits to multiple homes more enriching. Here are just a few examples.

  • Nottoway Plantation is said to be the largest surviving antebellum home in the South. The 64-room, 53,000-square-foot structure has 365 doors and windows. During the antebellum period it had indoor carpeting, running water and its own bowling alley. The home is located in the town of White Castle.
  • San Francisco Plantation in Reserve boasts architectural touches aptly described as “Steamboat Gothic”—the home’s exterior shares features seen on paddlewheel boats that traveled the Mississippi River in the 1800s.
  • Destrehan Plantation in Destrehan was completed in 1790. It is said to be one of the oldest homes in the entire lower Mississippi River valley.
  • The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville has been the site of at least 10 murders or deaths under mysterious circumstances. The home is said to be one of the most haunted structures in America.

Elegant homes with great stories extend beyond plantations. Many notable residences are located in major cities, small towns and in rural Louisiana areas. Most have period furnishings and exhibits depicting an aspect of local history or culture. Examples listed are all open to the public. Examples include:

  • Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans is the former home of both a Confederate Army general, P.G.T. Beauregard and Frances Parkinson Keyes, a noted religious author.
  • E.D. White State Historic Site in Thibodaux was the home of a former governor and Louisiana’s only Chief Justice of the United States. 
  • Grevemberg House Museum in Franklin is an 1850 Greek Revival townhouse with exhibits on the history of St. Mary Parish.
  • Hermione Museum in Tallulah is an 1855 farm home that houses the Madison Parish History Museum.
  • Joseph Jefferson House on Jefferson Island is the former home of an acclaimed actor who played the role of Rip Van Winkle more than 4,500 times.

Louisiana’s location on the Gulf of Mexico gives the state a subtropical climate with extended periods of warm weather and mild winters, creating an ideal environment for gardens. These botanical parks are just a sample of those open to the public and spread throughout the state.

  • American Rose Center in Shreveport, the official home of the American Rose Society, has 20,000 rose varieties in 65 gardens.
  • Hodges Gardens State Park near Florien is an abandoned rock quarry turned botanical park, inside a 225-acre multipurpose recreational site.
  • Jungle Gardens on Avery Island is a 170-acre botanical park and bird sanctuary that has live alligators roaming the site.
  • Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans offers 14 garden areas featuring native and adaptable plant and tree varieties.

For more information on Louisiana’s plantations, historic homes and notable gardens, visit LouisianaTravel.com.