Catalpa Plantation is one of numerous late Victorian cottages
found across Louisiana, significant for the beautiful gardens
that surround it.
The oak trees lining the grounds were planted
in 1814, and Catalpa's oak alley is thought to be the only
one in Louisiana which has an elliptical shape. Primarily
a cotton plantation in the antebellum period, Catalpa's grounds
were devastated during the Civil War, and the plantation house
Mr. Fort, the owner, died during the Civil War. In
1885, his son, William J. Fort, rebuilt Catalpa and it is
this house that still stands.
Although it is often referred
to as a "Victorian cottage," the house is in fact
quite large. It has a two room deep main block with a central
hall and a large rear wing with a central hall of its own.
Double doors separate the two central halls. The rooms are
large, and finished with standard late-19th century details.
Catalpa Plantation House is important for its false marbled
mantels. During the late-19th century manufactured cast-iron
and slate mantels were sometimes given a marble treatment.
This work was done by hand, but at the factory rather than
The mantels at Catalpa are important as examples
of Victorian art because they show the Victorian fondness
for elaborately contrived effects.
The slave cabin behind the Catalpa Plantation was built of
pit-sawn timber. Originally the cottage had no gallery, but
a new roof and a gallery were added around 1900.
of the house is a sizable pond that, according to Fort family
history, dates from the antebellum period. The pond is one
of the surviving elements of what was once an extensive landscaped
Catalpa's alley is one of a limited number of plantation
oak alleys which survive across the state. The exact date
of the oak alley is uncertain, while family history indicates
that it dates from the early 19th century, the scale of the
trees indicates that the alley has stood for about 120 years.
Catalpa is located at 9508 US Hwy. 61, 5 miles north of St.
Francisville. The house is open daily for tours 1:00pm to
4:00pm, but closed from December 15-January 31. There is a
fee for admission. Call 225-635-3372 for further information.
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