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Photograph taken Randy Crawford of Crawford Photography

Photograph taken Randy Crawford of Crawford Photography

If you’ve eaten in the garçonnière at The Cabin Restaurant over the last few years, you’ll notice several wood-cuts of local plantations hanging on the wall, like the one in the picture above. Allen B. Crochet, a local artist, carved them a few years back. There aren’t any labels on the artwork, so it is probably hard for out-of-area visitors to identify which plantations they are. To help y’all out, I’ll profile the plantation woodcuts in a few blog posts over the next month so you can get a better idea of the history behind them!

The plantation in the photo above is Ashland Belle Helene. Built between 1839 and 1841, the plantation sits in Geismar, about 10 minutes up River Road from The Cabin. The house was designed for Duncan Farrar Kenner and Annie Guillemine “Nanine” Kenner, a daughter of Michel Douradou Bringier, the owner of L’Hermitage Plantation and patriarch of the powerful Bringier family (also very close to The Cabin). The house was most likely designed by James Dakin. It was named “Ashland” after Henry Clay’s home in Kentucky.

Duncan Kenner was one of the most successful sugar planters in Louisiana and very influential figure in state politics. He served in the state senate, as a delegate to the secession convention in Montgomery, Alabama, and as the Confederate minister plenipotentiary to Europe. Interestingly enough, even though Kenner served as a delegate to the secession convention, he advocated for general emancipation in the South as early as 1862 as a means of winning support from the French and English during the Civil War.

Ashland is one of the purest expressions of the Greek Revival architectural style in Louisiana. The main house is built of brick covered with stucco scored and painted pale yellow to look like stone (trompe l’oeil!). Ashland was sold in 1887 by Nanine Kenner after the death of her husband to George B. Reuss, who renamed the property Belle Helene after his granddaughter, Helene Reuss.

Today, Ashland is owned by Shell Oil Company, who bought the property in 1992. Shell has made an effort to restore the plantation. Unfortunately, It is not open to the public due to liability issues with the massive chemical plant that Shell built right next to Ashland. Below is a modern picture of the plantation for your enjoyment!

Belle Helene