While spending time in Louisiana I eagerly wanted to visit one of the river houses along the Mississippi, and Houmas House touts itself as a “crown jewel” in this category. The plantation and complex was established around 1800 as a sugarcane plantation and is named after the native Houma people who originally occupied the area. The property is tied to many men important in early american history and colonialism, including American Revolution general Wade Hampton and John Burnside [one of the largest slaveholders in antebellum era south]. The property began in the French-colonial style, which changes over time to structures and the main house reflecting the Federal style with a final addition in 1840 updated and reflecting the Greek Revival style.
What I like about the property is organization’s strong attempt to respect and interpret this National Register property through informative tours, great signage and a commitment to accurate historic preservation. Yet at the same time they are very creative in engaging new audiences, providing opportunities for visitors to experience the property in non traditional ways through showing the juxtaposition of old and new, and seeking out other monetary revenue streams such as venue space and attractions.
If you like historic trees, then this is also worth the visit. We’re not quite at the level of the William Penn oaks or Penn Treaty elms here, but the Burnside Oak is likely over 300 years old and tracing back to when the land was inhabited by Native Americans.
I’ll list some other highlights and observations here:
- Very nice kitchen garden that feels authentic near that house and adjacent to the great outdoor seating area for the cafes.
- Apart from the historic gardens, there’s also some themed gardens that are playful and entertaining to experience. Ths includes a gnome garden, Japanese style garden, countless courtyards and allees/walks as well as many smaller themed spaces for succulents, tropicals and natives.
- Abundance of great sculpture scattered throughout the property.
Overall, this property is a classic example of how organizations are trying to stay current and appealing to modern day consumers, while also respecting their main mission and roots.