What’s Old is New Again
St. Francisville’s Surrounding Plantation Country: What’s Old is New Again
By Anne Butler
St. Francisville has been the center of culture, government and religion since it was settled in the opening years of the 19th century, but the little port city of Bayou Sara along the Mississippi River just below the bluffs was the center of commerce, while the surrounding plantation country provided the economic driver for both communities. Today, Bayou Sara is no more and St. Francisville has become the center of commerce as well as culture, but there remain a number of recently rejuvenated historic plantations that attract visitors seeking an understanding of what life was like in the Cotton Kingdom.
One of the most significant and earliest of Louisiana’s state historic sites, Oakley Plantation and its surrounding hundred wooded acres reopened with an old-time Christmas celebration the first weekend in December after being closed for nearly a year for lead abatement. During that time the house underwent a complete exterior restoration and was repainted in the original colors, white with darker green trim, plus interior paint touch-ups and furniture conservation. Popular as the central focus of the Audubon State Historic Site for more than half a century, Oakley is a splendid West Indies-style three-story structure with jalousied galleries and has a fascinating visitor center/museum, picnic facilities and hiking trails, detached plantation kitchen reconstructed on original foundations with weaving and wash rooms, a barn full of horse-drawn vehicles and farm implements, and several rustic slave cabins.