I feel like Scarlet O’Hara as I sit on my four-poster bed at Houmas House, about an hour’s drive west of New Orleans, writing this blog post.
The old plantation home has been lovingly and lavishly restored by businessman Kevin Kelly who has undoubtedly reclaimed this former crown jewel that once proudly glistened on the banks of the Mississippi, to its former glory. A massive 500-year old southern live oak tree sags on the front lawn, it’s heavy limbs burdened by the years and the stories it could tell, resting on the ground.
At one time this house ruled over 300,000 acres of agricultural land including 65,000 acres of sugar cane and was worked by possibly as many as 800 slaves. Today it is a restoration project that is full of original period furnishings, art and quirky bits and pieces collected by Kevin (and his friends who also look out for stuff he might like to buy on auction sites). The whole place is breathtaking and utterly priceless.
He’s a multi-millionaire in his own right, having worked hard in New Orleans making money through freight warehousing and now spends it on his passion, Houmas House, its history and its gardens.
I am in one of the new cottages, each decorated exquisitely – with the added luxuries of a coffee maker and huge flat screen TV. A new restaurant (The Carriage House) has just been built utilising plans he found for the building from a 150 years ago but was never realised. Today it’s one of three possible reception rooms for the 65 weddings per year they also host. The next project is the amphitheatre, currently under construction, which will be a gorgeous place for live opera, jazz and music events.
An hour’s drive west of New Orleans via long bridges snaking across swampland, Houmas House is a great day out for lunch, a stop over on your drive to NOLA from Texas or just down the road from Baton Rouge.
Here are a few of my favourite pics from our tour (read: nosey) through the house…