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Sitting only 200′ from the banks of the Mississippi River just north of White Castle, Louisiana, is the majestic Nottoway Plantation. With over 53,000 square feet on three floors, this enormous architectural treasure represents

one of the largest plantation homes in the South.

Built in 1859 by the wealthy planter John Hampden Randolph, it features 64 rooms, six interior stairways, and three modern bathrooms. There are 165 doors and 200 windows which, by design, Mr. Randolph chose representing one for each day of the year. The ceilings are a towering 15′6″ and doorways, 11′0 tall. The brick walls of the home are a substantial 14″ thick. Documents from 1859 indicate the total cost of the structure to have been about $80,000. Quite a sum in those days.

Henry Howard, noted New Orleans architect, was selected to design and oversee the construction. Howard was considered to be one of the most talented architects of New Orleans during the 1800’s. There still remains a number of his trademark Greek Revival and Italianate style buildings throughout that city today. Over 40 carpenters and tradesmen were hired to complete Nottoway. Public accommodations in White Castle in 1859 didn’t exist; so the laborers were housed in tents on the property.

Although none of the original landscape and gardens exist today, one can only imagine, based on the opulence of the structure, how impressive the grounds would have been. The original property included over 1,000 acres, 400 of which made up the highland. The master landscape plan in 1859 included 120 fruit trees, 12 magnolia trees, poplar and live oaks, 75 rose bushes, 150 strawberry plants, and a variety of flower and vegetable gardens. Through the passage of time, neglect and the loss of about six and half acres eroding into the Mississippi, Nottoway’s original gardens have sadly disappeared.

Other structures on the property include slave quarters, a schoolhouse, greenhouse, stable, wooden cisterns, and other agriculturally related buildings. The kitchen of that day was typically located as an out-building from the main house in order to avoid fires which often began with the open-hearth method of food preparation.

Even with eleven children, Randolph and his wife Emily had more than enough room for entertaining in the grand ballroom with its painted wooden floors (very unusual for that time). Much of the remaining formal areas of the home included marble floors. One should also note the hand-carved, intricate plasterwork throughout the home. The 12 hand-carved Italian marble fireplaces used coal (in lieu of wood) for fuel and the porcelain doorknobs were hand painted with matching keyhole covers from Germany.

Nottoway featured a number of innovative conveniences not found in plantation homes of that day. For example, there were gas lights, the plumbing was indoor with hot and cold running water; and there was even a bowling alley installed for the Randolph children!

There is a story that Mrs. Randoph, with pistol in hand and in the absence of her husband, greeted an arriving army of Union Troops from the 2nd floor front balcony during the Civil War. After several rounds were fired, missing their target, the commander of the troops approached the front of the home where he and the courageous Mrs. Randolph recognized one another. The story has it that she served the gentleman tea before he and his force marched on, sparing Nottoway from destruction; as so often was the case during the Union invasion.

The house remained in the possession of the Randolph’s until 1889, when it was sold following Mr. Randolph’s death. Much of the original and period furniture, including the master bedroom suite, has been returned to the home.

Although presently closed for renovation and scheduled to reopen in October, Nottoway will once again offer accommodations for overnight guests who may stay in the main house’ spacious original bedrooms, the boy’s wing, or in the overseer’s cottage. All guest areas have been renovated with comfortable antique furniture and modern plumbing. There are 13 non-smoking rooms with private entrances, children are welcome, and there is a spacious on-site restaurant serving complimentary breakfast with lunch and dinner also available.

The grounds are filled with 200 and 300-year old, moss-draped live oaks framing a reflection pool, duck pond, and secluded swimming pool for guests.

Nottoway Plantation is only an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge and two hours from New Orleans. If you have the opportunity to visit this massive White Castle along the banks of the Mississippi River, I urge you to do so. You’ll not be disappointed.