Stepping onto the Cottage Plantation feels like a leap into some antebellum episode of the Twilight Zone. Its most extraordinary feature is its intactness, retaining all of its original land, most of its original outbuildings, and much of its original furniture. Though it can’t compete with the grandeur of the River Plantations, in its completeness as an historical plantation site, it is unmatched.
Plantations were not just homes. They were large and busy centers of commercial production, with numerous additional buildings and dependencies. Homesteaded after a 1795 Spanish land grant, the grounds of the Cottage Plantation contain the main house, a schoolhouse/law office, outside kitchen, smoke house, utility house containing a saddle/harness room, slave commissary (plantation general store), china storage room, lumber room, and cemetery. In addition, there are two greenhouses, a carriage barn, a horse barn and three slave cabins. Together, these buildings offer an unparalleled glimpse into plantation life in 1800s Louisiana.
As home to the prominent local Judge, Thomas Butler, Cottage Plantation certainly hosted many notables in its day. Andrew Jackson was even a guest here after his heroics in the Battle of New Orleans, recuperating on the plantation after an injury sustained in the fight. Guests of the plantation’s current bed-and-breakfast may now stay in his room, though they are more likely to wake to fresh flowers and tea than any ghostly visitations from our 7th President.
The American Civil War transformed the landscape of the south, emancipating the slaves upon whose free labor the plantation system depended. Just a small number of Louisiana’s antebellum plantations survive to this day. Few of them exist with the tenacity of Cottage Plantation. It is filled with dusty and enigmatic relics, and the faded portraits of Confederates peer down at you with watchful eyes. Visiting Cottage Plantation, you get the feeling that you’ve fallen into some 200-year-old Confederate holdout. This is a place where the Civil War never ended—maybe never even began.