Before I get into the business of wrapping up the year in travel for 2015 and kicking off new travel goals for 2016, I wanted to share with you one more little place we have visited- Franklin, Louisiana.
Franklin? Never heard of it. That’s what I heard a lot of when I told my friends and colleagues that was the next destination on L and I’s travel list last year at Thanksgiving. Honestly though I couldn’t blame anyone. I hadn’t heard of it either until I had seen one of their romantic looking B&B’s on Groupon’s Romantic Getaways one evening while I was perusing their site looking for an idea for a place to visit while L was in town. We knew we didn’t want to go too far, as I only had a weekend, but we didn’t really have our minds set on anything in particular. So I found this little B&B and we thought why not? And we booked it. And then we said, “Ah, what the heck is there to DO in Franklin?” That was only a fleeting thought though because, as I say, every place has something special about it, we just need to be open to seeing it. So we did some research and found the something special about Franklin – historic plantation homes.
A Little of the History of Franklin, LA
Named for Benjamin Franklin, the town was founded in 1808, became a parish seat in 1811, and the first incorporated town in 1820. The early settlers were French, Acadian, German, Dutch, and Irish, but it was the unusually large number of English settlers that influenced the architecture and culture the most.
A number of large sugar plantations cropped up and Franklin became a busy sugar port with the development of steamboats. With the large sugar plantations came the grand mansions and Greek Revival antebellum homes, some of which are available to tour.
Today Franklin’s Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historical Places with over 420 structures in the district and we visited three of those grand plantation homes during our stay.
The story of this grand home starts in 1801 when an Irishman named Alexander Porter arrived in the United States at only 16 years old. His father had been executed by the English and he was fleeing Ireland with his uncle and brother.
Originally the three settled in Nashville, TN and Porter studied law and served as an attorney. He was advised to move further south to either Louisiana or Mississippi, as educated young men were in high demand, and he’d be sure to find great success- which he did. He was elected to serve on a committee that oversaw the creation of the Louisiana State Constitution, and then served in the State Legislature and Louisiana Supreme Court.
It was during this time, about 1812, he began to build Oaklawn Manor. Porter purchased property along the Bayou Teche until he grew his holdings to thousands of acres along the bayou and his sugar plantation became hugely successful. Along this time he also married and had two daughters, however both his wife and first daughter didn’t live long. Despite these tragedies in his personal life Porter continued to grow his political career and eventually became a United States Senator. Unfortunately bad health also took the life of his daughter shortly after she was married, and then of Porter himself in 1844 at the age of only 59.
The home was given to his brother who bequeathed it to his wife upon his death. She and her daughters tried to continue raising the sugar cane and keep up with the home but after the Civil War they were left with few servants and therefore couldn’t keep it up and sold the plantation to a wealthy man up from New York.
Today visitors can tour the home and learn more about its history from a very nice, and extremely knowledgeable lady, who gave us our tour. She clearly took great pride in her role as tour guide and provided us with so much information about the home, the family, and all the beautiful furniture and artwork in the home- and there are a lot of treasures to see in the home. The photos below show just a taste of those treasures and some of the beautiful grounds around the home.
Address: 3296 E. Oaklawn Drive, Franklin, LA 70538 || Phone: 337-828-0434
Open daily, year round except major holidays and Mondays || Visitor Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Admission: Adults $15.00/ Students $10.00 (please bring cash)
Grevemberg House Museum
Located in Franklin’s City Park, the Grevemburg House was in danger of demolition after being neglected for years, until a group of concerned citizens took up the cause in 1963 to form a Landmark Society to preserve their historic buildings.
In this National Register property the elegance of mid-19th century town life is preserved for visitors to tour and learn all about. We were the only people visiting when we arrived and were shown around by a gentleman that was just as knowledgeable and concerned about the home as our guide was at Oaklawn Manor. After spending some time with him we learned they are actually brother and sister.
The gentleman led us all through the home pointing out distinct features like the fluted Corinthian columns on the balcony, beautifully restored double parlors, and antique pieces throughout the house like the mahogany dining table, silver, cut glass, and the original marble mantels. He also taught us about the wallpaper that represents authentic patterns from the period, along with toys and some Civil War artifacts. His commentary and knowledge definitely enhanced our visit and made the home more than just a place for us to go in and wander around. It was also fortuitous that we were the only ones visiting that day, as not only did we get a private tour, but he also offered to show us one more home in the town that wasn’t really open to visitors all the time. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the last home but if you ever visit the Grevemberg House and the guide offers to show you around the other home, do take him up on his offer. It’s another beautiful home that is carefully being preserved and restored- and it has a little bit of a ghost story to go with it. Eerie!
Address: 407 Sterling Road (Hwy 322), Franklin, LA 70538 || Phone: 318-828-2092
Open daily, year round except major holidays || Visitor Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Admission: There is an admission price but I don’t remember exactly how much it was and it is not listed on their website. I believe it was $10 and cash is required.
The final house on our little tour of plantation homes in Franklin is the B&B we stayed in. As it is a B&B we didn’t get a tour through the whole home so I only took a few photos outside. Please feel free to go to this link though for their photos all around the home and of the guest rooms.
Built in 1852 by John Barrett Murphy for his daughter, Martha, the home was known as the Shady Retreat and was situated in the midst of a working sugar cane plantation. Over the generations the house and the property has been passed down until a lady named Fairfax Foster was one of the last family members to live in the home. It is in her honour that the house is so named now.
On our visit we stayed in the Azalea Room which was beautiful and every bit as romantic as I had hoped it would be when I booked it. I loved the antique furniture, the fireplace, and the bed was soooo comfortable I must say it was hard to get up in the morning to go out exploring. However we did make ourselves get up, and after our delicious Southern breakfast of grillades and grits we were fully awake and ready to head out for the day. The innkeeper, Cheryl, is a sweet lady that gave us some information about the area and made us feel right at home. She even let us keep the leftovers from our picnic dinner in their fridge so we could finish them up another time.
There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this B&B and would definitely recommend it to anyone that wants to take a romantic, quiet weekend away. While there isn’t enough to fill up a week in little Franklin, there is enough to see and do to make a leisurely weekend getaway of it. It is a quiet little town that will certainly transport you back in history especially if you choose to visit their stately plantation homes. The only thing I’d say I wish we had done while there- spend some time in those rocking chairs on the front porch of the Fairfax House. They do look like just the place to sit for the afternoon with a glass of sweet tea to watch the world go by.