SOUTHDOWN PLANTATION MUSEUM
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Saturday, 25 June 2011 00:30
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Nestled down in bayou country stands a beautifully restored 1859 Greek revival home which was built by a wealthy sugar planter for his family as they oversaw over 1,000 acres of productive sugarcane fields. The home is located...

 

in Houma, Terrebonne Parish’s seat of government.

In 1828 William J. Minor along with partner James Dinsmore purchased the land and founded Southdown Plantation. Within 3 years, the farm established sugarcane as its principal crop and after 15 years of sending the harvested cane to Lafourche Parish mills, a sugar mill was constructed on the property. The following year, 1847, Minor became the sole owner and his family occupied the home and managed the fields until 1936.

During the 1920’s Southdown was credited with developing a variety of sugarcane which was resistant to the destructive mosaic disease affecting fields throughout Louisiana. Following the departure of the Minor family in 1932, the plantation ownership and operations were in the hands of large corporations.

Just as with so many other South Louisiana plantation homes, Southdown fell into serious disrepair during the mid 20th century after no longer being functional as living quarters to managers and employees of the sugar mill operations.

In 1974, the Southdown Plantation House was added to the National Register of Historic places and the plantation owners, Valhi, Inc., donated four and one half acres of land including the main house and servants’ quarters to the newly formed Terrebonne Historical and Cultural Society. After many years of volunteer work and the generosity of hundreds of contributors, Southdown has been returned to its Nineteenth Century splendor. Much of the original and period furniture, art, and decor has been used in achieving the historically accurate re-creation.

The mill operation along La Highway 311 was a familiar sight to the residents of Terrebonne Parish until shut down in 1979, dismantled and sent to Guatemala where it was rebuilt. It continues to operate there today.

The Historical and Cultural Society decided to not only provide a glimpse into what plantation life was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but also included historical artifacts surrounding the culture and history of the people that played significant roles in Terrebonne Parish’s history and development.

Following its opening in 1982, the Society has continued to add interesting exhibits including an extensive Boehm and Doughty porcelain bird collection, an exhibit of native American crafts and artifacts from the local Houmas Tribe, and a display of various costumes and items from local Mardis Gras history. You’ll also find stories and oral histories on the contributions of the sugar and oil industries of Terrebonne Parish.

On the 2nd floor an entire room has been completely dedicated to the memory of Terrebonne’s most famous public figure, U.S. Senator Allen J. Ellender. The room has been furnished as a duplication of the Senator’s private office in Washington, D.C. There you’ll find furniture, books, papers, photographs, and memorabilia from Ellender’s travels throughout the world and his years in the U.S. Senate. The contents of this room alone will provide over an hour of interesting and informative activity for anyone who appreciates history.

For those curious about the pink and green exterior color scheme, the Historical and Cultural Society spent considerable time investigating the original colors through paint analysis; and have accurately returned the exterior of the home to it’s 19th Century appearance.

There is a restored servants’ quarters building which serves as a gift shop on the premises; and the grounds, although greatly affected by storms over the past 20 years, still include many centuries old, moss-draped live oaks.

This plantation promises to be an enjoyable experience for the entire family. I encourage you to make plans to visit. The drive in from New Orleans (1hour) or Lafayette (1 1/2 hours) is well worth the time. Houma and surrounding areas also provide numerous hotel accomodations, B & B’s, restaurants, and tours to make your trip enjoyable.

For directions, tour information, hours of operation and scheduled events visit the Southdown Museum website.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 16:17