The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 98: Looking Back At Baton Rouge- Part 1

September 6, 2020-

Today presented itself, back at Home Base, with a few responsibilities right off the bat- two Zoom calls and two loads of laundry. Mostly, though, I had plenty of time to ease back into the routine that occupies me here.

It’s apropos to note a couple of subjects that derive from the day or so that I spent in Baton Rouge. Louisiana’s capital ha,s at times, languished in the shadow of its Big Easy sister to the southeast. New Orleans was, in fact, offered me as a place from which to fly homeward, yet, with a guaranteed ride to BR and none to NOLA, I politely declined the offer.

The free day, that resulted from my catching a ride to Baton Rouge, provided a chance to get a look at a preserved plantation property: Magnolia Mound. It was medium-sized, even its heyday-with 80 enslaved people working the property, at maximum, primarily for sugar cane production. There were a series of thirteen owners, between 1797 and 1905, the latter owner running the place as a sharecropping enterprise, after a brief period (1863-7) in which the freedmen remained on the property and ran it as their own business, in a time of confusion as to the whereabouts of the owner. In the mid-1960’s, the property was purchased by the City of Baton Rouge, as a park, in order to preserve the French Creole architecture and artifacts.

I was fortunate to get a personal tour of the Historic House (manor) from a delightful young lady, named Cat, with encyclopedic knowledge of the various aspects of the grounds and buildings. No photography is allowed INSIDE the Historic House, but here are some scenes of other parts of the park.

Magnolia Mound Visitors Center
Hart House, the home of a post-Emancipation owner of Magnolia Mound, who had his mother live in the mansion, though without running water. Nice guy, Mr. Hart.
The magnolia is one of two dominant trees on the property.
La Grange Pavilion is a former barn, now used as an event center.
The Live Oak is the other dominant tree on the property.
This is an external view of a Slave Cabin. Each cabin housed five people. There were at least sixteen such cabins on the property, at the height of its operation. The cabins were destroyed by a tornado in 1871. This structure is similar to those destroyed, but was itself brought from another plantation.
This shows the sleeping area of an enslaved person’s cabin. There were likely two or three other beds in the room, as well.
Looms were a critical tool of the enslaved women who worked in the Main House. They tended to all matters involving the property owner’s family, as well as making their own clothes.
This is the Overseer’s House. Overseers were, generally, just a notch above the enslaved- and could have been anyone from a poor Scotch-Irish farmer to a freed African-American. They were, however, not enslaved.
Here is the open hearth of the outdoor kitchen for the Plantation House. Enslaved women prepared all the meals here.
Here is a view of the front to the Plantation (Historic) House. The construction is a blend of Spanish, Creole and Caribbean archtiecture.

Enslavement has always bothered me, especially as an institution. That it was deemed necessary to build our nation’s economy is particularly odious. The story, though, ought not be erased or canceled. It needs to remain as part of the larger cautionary tale, lest it ever happen again.

Next: Louisiana’s State Capitol

6 thoughts on “The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 98: Looking Back At Baton Rouge- Part 1

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