Oak Alley Plantation is one of the most photographed homes in America. Known for its famous “Alley of Oaks” it attracts thousands of visitors every year. Not only do the legendary 28 massive oaks that give path to this home create a unique atmosphere but the towering 28 Doric columns surrounding the house make this place enchantingly delightful.
If you are looking for the perfect southern home to tour in Louisiana you should be sure to mark this prestigious residence as a must see on your next adventure.
History of Oak Alley Plantation
It is believed that one of the first settlers from France had came and planted the famous oaks in two rows in the early 1700s. It is legend that the man was amazed by the beauty of the land with its proximity to the Mississippi River and thus planted the trees with hopes to return from France and build his home a few years later. Although the man never returned and the trees were left to grow on their own.
Oak Alley was built by the son of a prominent French-Creole sugar cane family in Louisiana, Jacques Telesphore Roman. After Jacques’ marriage to the also wealthy Celina Pilie, he decided it was time to build his own plantation.
The newlywed Romans were sold land in 1836 from Jacques’ brother-in-law who was locally known as the “Sugar King of Louisiana” and one of the wealthiest men in the South. The plantations name was initially called Bon Séjour but later renamed Oak Alley. The name Oak Alley came from sailors who worked along the Mississippi River and used the alley of oaks as a landmark in their passage.
Construction began on the home in 1837 and was completed in 1839. The home is believed to have been designed by Mrs. Roman’s architect father Joseph Pilie. The family lived in the plantation home and raised sugar cane crops.
One of the slaves on the Plantation named Antoine was responsible for growing and caring for the trees and gardens. He is most importantly known for his work with pecan trees. In 1846, Antoine finally grafted a tree that produced pecans that were easily cracked open in your hands. This discovery won an award at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
Upon Jacques death in 1848 from tuberculosis, his wife Celina took over management of the plantation. Celina’s lack of experience nearly bankrupted the farm and her son Henri took over in 1859. With the end of the Civil War and the freeing of slaves, the plantation was no longer financially successful.
In 1866, Oak Alley was auctioned off and sold to John Armstrong for $32,500. For the next few decades the plantation varied owners. It was not until 1925 that the home and land fell into loving hands.
By the time that Andrew Stewart purchased the land for his wife Josephine, the buildings and home were in much disrepair. Cows were strolling across the tile floors of the main home and barns were near collapse. The Stewart’s restored the home and outbuildings, operating Oak Alley as a cattle ranch until the 1960s when sugar cane became a viable crop again.
After Josephine’s death in 1972, property was opened to the public under ownership of the Oak Alley Foundation. Since the 1970s, Oak Alley has been a popular attraction and venue for visitors around the world.
For more information about the history of Oak Alley please visit https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/louisiana/oak.htm.
Oak Alley in the Movies
Known for its beautiful grounds and gorgeous architecture, Oak Alley Plantation has been a popular choice for movie settings and backdrops since the 1960s. The following movies and television shows have had scenes filmed at Oak Alley: Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), Nightrider (1978), Dixie: Changing Habits (1982), Days of Our Lives (1984), The Long Hot Summer (1985), Interview with a Vampire (1993), Primary Colors (1998) and Ghost Hunters (2008).
Hauntings at Oak Alley
Stories have been told of Oak Alley for its mysterious occurrences witnessed by numerous employees and visitors.
One instance witnessed by staff at the Plantation occurred when closing down the home after an event late one evening. All the lights had been turned off in the home but when they looked back at the house they noticed a light in the upstairs Lavender Bedroom. They then claimed to have seen Mrs. Stewart’s ghost and ran to their cars. A few minutes later as they passed by the front of the house on Great River Road the house was dark.
On the second floor just outside the door on the wrap around balcony people have been reported to feel a stabbing sensation in their stomach. This is legend from a dual that has been said to have taken place between two soldiers. One of the soldiers ended up getting stabbed with a sword in that exact location.
Probably one of the most famous ghost stories arising from the tales of Oak Alley is the Lady in Black. The vague figure of a young woman dressed in an all black gown wandering amidst the oaks or around the second floor balcony has been reported by numerous individuals. This is believed to be the ghost of Louise Roman. Louise was a beautiful young girl and the daughter of Jacques and Celine Roman.
Louise Roman was fleeing the advances of a drunken suitor when she tripped and fell on the staircase inside Oak Alley house. She tumbled to the floor but one of the iron hoops of her dress frame punctured her leg. Soon infection and gangrene set in and doctors amputated her leg below the knee to save her life. Due to her disability, no more suitors came for Louise and she was destined to be a spinster for life. She joined a convent upon her mothers death in 1866, moving to St. Louis. She moved to New Orleans in her late 20s to found the first Catholic Carmalite Convent in the region. Rumors of her ghost say she roams Oak Alley longing for her life before her injury or even a chance at love.
Another strange occurrence came from a tour guide and visitors who witnessed a candlestick fly across the room. Photos have been taken with ghostly reflections in bedroom mirrors, feelings of being poked or touched, the sound of horse drawn carriages on the driveway with nothing in sight, babies crying and chairs rocking with no one in them.
Visiting Oak Alley
Located about an hour west of New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation is available for tours, events, shopping, dining and even overnight stays in one of the cottages.
Experience the landscape, “Big House”, slave cabins and sugarcane exhibits as well as a blacksmith shop. The restaurant at Oak Alley offers authentic cajun/creole cuisine. A nearby gift shop on site features souvenirs from the plantation.
See the map below for the location of Oak Alley Plantation.
For more information about hours or admission please visit https://www.oakalleyplantation.org/visit/hours-admission.
Thanks for reading and as always, keep on truckin’!