Nottoway Plantation and Resort

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Discover the Nottoway Plantation and Resort, the South's largest antebellum mansion.

Nottoway Plantation & Resort, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012, dates back to 1859.

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The story of the Nottoway Plantation and Resort begins with a cotton planter from Virginia named John Hampden Randolph. He decided to relocate his family to Louisiana, believing that he could amass a great personal fortune by growing both sugar cane and cotton. In 1842, Randolph purchased several hundred acres of a plantation located a few miles south of Baton Rouge along that banks of the Mississippi. Renaming the estate “Nottoway” in honor of his birthplace, Randolph started converting the land to cultivate both cash crops. He then mortgaged most of his property to construct an onsite, steam-powered mill that would specifically process the sugar cane. But Randolph was also a prominent slaveowner, having acquired some 200 slaves to support his new sprawling estate. It helped Randolph to increase his profits exponentially, which transformed him into a powerful local political figure. In 1855, Randolph began building a beautiful manor that would serve as the focal point for the plantation. He hired renowned New Orleans-based architect Henry Howard to design the new mansion. Howard diligently worked to create a structure that featured a beautiful combination of Greek Revival and Italianate-style architecture. When Howard finally finished in 1859, Randolph, his wife Emily, and their 11 children would call the estate home for the better part of four decades.

Randolph remained an avid Unionist as the country tumbled ever closer to civil war during the 1850s. But, given his status as a slaveholder, he reluctantly supported Louisiana’s secession in 1861. Randolph financially backed the rebel war effort, while three of his sons actively fought in the rebel army. His eldest son, Algernon Sidney Randolph, even perished while serving at the Battle of Vicksburg during the summer of 1863. Nottoway Plantation itself was quickly occupied by both Union and Confederate forces when the conflict finally arrived in southern Louisiana. Fortunately, the estate escaped suffering any damage, save for a single blast of grapeshot from a federal cannon. Yet, the agricultural produce and material were plundered by both sides. Randolph and his family had to rebuild the plantation once the war concluded, reducing its size considerably to the point where it only constituted 400 acres. He also hired 53 of the family’s former slaves to help revive the devastated land. After John’s death in 1883, Emily inherited Nottoway. She eventually decided to sell the estate and all of its land for $50,000 six years later. Splitting the proceeds among her surviving children, Emily retired to New Orleans where she lived out the rest of her life.

After spending most of the 20th century as a private residence, the estate made its debut as a premier holiday retreat known as the “Nottoway Plantation and Resort” in 1980. Visitors could initially enjoy guided tours of the location, as well as a nine-minute documentary that retold the lives of the Randolph family. Various historical artifacts—such as a copy of the pardon Randolph signed following the Civil War—appeared for the first time throughout the building. These objects helped guests to further understand the rich history of Nottoway Plantation. Sir Paul Ramsey purchased the entire estate in 1985. He then endeavored to make the Nottoway Plantation and Resort one of the South’s most prestigious resorts. Beginning in 2008, Sir Ramsey invested more than $14 million into expanding the plantation to include a variety of luxurious accommodations. But the renovations have also ensured that the estate’s great historical integrity has remained perfectly intact. The Nottoway Plantation & Resort still remains one of Louisiana’s great vacation getaways, with the staff taking great measures to preserve its legacy for future generations to experience. Currently listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Nottoway Plantation and Resort is today among the best places to vacation in all of Louisiana.

  • About the Location +

    The Town of White Castle dates back to the early 1880s, when it was carved out a plantation owned by George Wailes. Known as “White Castle,” it was one of several massive estates that characterized the landscape of Iberville Parish in the 19th century. Iberville itself was one the original 19 parishes that the Louisiana legislature created in the years leading up to the state’s formal admission into the union. Originally composed of small farms, the parish gradually became dominated by massive sugar cane and cotton plantations on the eve of the American Civil War. Among the most prominent estates constructed throughout Iberville at the time were Nottoway, Belle Grove, and Laurel Ridge. As such, slavery was the primary economic force, as every major plantation operated with a group of several dozen enslaved people. Most of the slaves had come from places along the East Coast and sold at the auction houses in nearby New Orleans. Small-scale maritime commerce emerged along the banks of the Mississippi River, too, ferrying all sorts of cash crops throughout the region. A few local village also sprung up across Iberville, too—like Samstown and Dorseyville—that serviced the gigantic estates.

    But the antebellum world was turned on its head when the American Civil War arrived in Louisiana at the start of 1862. A combined force of Union Army brigades and Navy steamships captured New Orleans before working their way north toward Baton Rouge that spring. Then, in August, Confederate forces attempted in vein to win back the state capital during a brief, yet fierce, battle fought just beyond the city limits in August. In the meantime, marauding bands of both Union and Confederate soldiers pillaged the countryside of Iberville Parish, confiscating whatever materials the found for their respective war efforts. Many slaves also took the opportunity to escape to freedom by seeking refuge in the Union military camps that surrounded Baton Rouge. Their status as freedpeople was later reinforced by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. They subsequently provided important services to the Northern army, working in such roles as teamsters, clerks, and laborers. Plantations throughout Iberville subsequently suffered greatly, with many reduced to impoverished conditions. As the former slaveowners arrived home in the summer of 1865, they faced a serious struggle to salvage what remained of their estates.

    It was under those conditions that the George Wailes plantation became the Town of White Castle. By this point, some of the former plantations had resumed producing cash crops, although most had failed. A new industry soon appeared, though, which temporarily replaced the agricultural economy—logging. An influx of new people descended upon White Castle and Iberville Parish to found business that would harvest the local cypress trees from the neighboring swamps. Yet, this economic development proved to be short-lived as the lumber companies depleted the supply of cypress too quickly. Local entrepreneurs reverted back to growing sugarcane, which became the predominant commercial activity for close to the next century. By the late 20th century, White Castle alone had three major sugar mills—Cedar Grove, Catherine/Supples, and Cora-Texas. Only one, Cora-Texas, is still in operation today. A vibrant chemical trade also emerged around the same time, with nearly a half-dozen processing plants established in Iberville Parish during the 1980s. Major companies such as Dow Chemical, Georgia-Gulf, and Ciba-Geigy all created significant manufacturing centers in the vicinity of White Castle. Today, White Castle is one of the most secluded hamlets outside of Baton Rouge, offering to visitors an unrivaled combination of tranquil scenery and historical ambiance.


  • About the Architecture +

    In 1855, John Hampden Randolph commissioned renowned architect Henry Howard to develop the manor home of his antebellum plantation. He yearned for a magnificent residence that would be unmatched throughout the area in its beauty and grandeur. As such, Randolph made it clear to Howard that be intended to spare no expense, spending north of $80,000 to complete the project. He even instructed his developers to destroy their blueprints once the building was finished, so that no other person in Iberville Parish could copy the design. Taking four years to complete, Howard and his team crafted a spectacular mansion that beautifully combined elements of Greek Revival and Italianate-style architecture. He specifically constructed a three-story, wooden-framed house that included a single floor of rusticated stucco-covered brick. Facing east toward the Mississippi River, it sat on an asymmetrical floor plan that consisted of 64 different rooms. A large curved bay with galleries anchored the right side of the building, while a projecting bedroom wing resided on the left. Howard placed a magnificent portico in the center that displayed several brilliant columns complete with elongated capitals and decorative modillions. The columns continued to wrap around the length of the building, although they varied in length and size. Above the columns rested a spectacular hipped roof, as well as the crest of six chimneys.

    The central portico opened up into an entrance hall that ran the length of the building. Large Baccarat crystal chandeliers hung from the space and hand-painted porcelain doorknobs from Germany lined every door. Plaster frieze moldings characterize its walls, made from a combination of mud, clay, and Spanish moss. To the right of the corridor resided Randolph’s favorite room, the White Ballroom. Filled with its own set of Corinthian columns and hand-cast archways, Randolph had Howard paint the entire space completely white. The White Ballroom also contained rococo marble mantles, as well as two outstanding fireplaces. Other rooms located on the first floor were the gentleman’s study and the formal dining hall with its pink camellia plasterwork. From the entrance hallway, a brilliant double-curved granite staircase ascended into the second story of the home, where the main living quarters were located. Howard ensconced the structure with Honduran wood and green velvet carpeting. The divide feature on the stairwell was designed to encourage gender separation from both men and women, per the etiquette of the antebellum South. Evidence of such intent is visible in the stairs themselves, as the boot scraper featured at the bottom of the right side of the staircase was meant exclusively for men.

    The grand staircase continued its climb into Ancestral Hall, which acted as the main thoroughfare on the third and final floor. With its sweeping views of the water, the Randolphs used the space as their primary family parlor. It also connected directly with most of the bedrooms in the house, too, including the wide-open master suite. Today, most of the bedrooms operate as guest accommodations, although a few now function as exhibits within a small museum. One such room is now devoted to showcasing 19th-century musical instruments, while another displays historic furniture that the Randolph family once owned. The rest of the mansion has been altered in recent years to better serve guests as a resort. For instance, the “basement” level now features a boutique restaurant and an exhibition space that chronicles the extensive, multidimensional history of the plantation. (Back in the 1800s, the basement had actually functioned as the servants quarters, as well as the home of the laundry, dairy, and wine cellar.) Due in part to its unique architectural identity, the U.S. Department of the Interior even listed the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Truly, Nottoway is nothing but an architectural masterpiece.


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Loss of a Teadrop Diamond (2008)

    The Magnificent Seven (2016)


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