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Cattle Herd crosses Oak AlleyModern Oak AlleyOftentimes, we get used to a specific way an old plantation house and its grounds are supposed to look. Take Bon Sejour Plantation, a.k.a. Oak Alley, just downriver from The Cabin Restaurant in Vacherie. If you’ll take a look at the modern picture, you will see pristine landscaping, an immaculate lawn, live oak roots gnarled under their might trunks, and an impressive mansion at the end of the alley of oaks.
Now, compare that photo to the old one above at Oliphant Images of a cattle herd moving across the lawn of Oak Alley, taken anywhere from 80-100 years ago. Up until the 1970s, many of these old River Road plantations in Louisiana still operated on agricultural terms, whether sugarcane was grown in the fields or cattle roamed up and down the levees, happily grazing. In fact, many of the main houses on plantations did not enclose their bottom floor until after the Civil War because livestock and other farm animals would go in and out of the entrance ways, depending on the weather. This was especially true after the War Between the States, when many plantation homes were abandoned and left to idly crumble over several decades during Reconstruction and after the turn of the 19th century.

So next time you visit a historic plantation, try to envision what it would have looked like on an everyday basis from the time it was built to the present. Oftentimes, you’ll find that the way they look today isn’t indicative of the way the plantations were used and looked in their heyday.