Alma Plantation is a working sugar plantation whose layout and structures provide details about a historic Louisiana vernacular architecture.
Julien Poydras purchased the land for what became Alma Plantation in Lakeland in 1789. After his death in 1824, the plantation was sold and by the 1850s, it was owned by David Barrow of Afton Villa, a member of the powerful Barrow family in West Feliciana Parish, and his Englishborn partner George Pitcher, who became sole owner in 1859. The plantation was named for Barrow’s daughter, Alma, who died of yellow fever. It is still a working sugar plantation, whose layout and extant structures provide revealing details about a historic Louisiana vernacular complex, few of which have survived. Sugar has been grown and refined at Alma Plantation continuously since 1844.
Poydras was one of the wealthiest planters in Louisiana in the early nineteenth century, acquiring four plantations in Pointe Coupee Parish and two in West Baton Rouge Parish. Alma Plantation was the site of the 1795 slave uprising known as the Black Rebellion: Inspired by the success of the St. Domingue Revolution, the slaves planned an insurrection but were betrayed, and twenty-five of them were killed.
The modern, raised-galleried house now standing near the entrance to the plantation is believed to have incorporated part of Poydras’s house, specifically the sections of brick-between-posts wall. Just beyond the house are several wooden structures, including the company office, a small store, some sheds, and two barns. The wide, low barn with a double-pitched roof and partially open side aisle was built circa 1897, and the tall rectangular barn with two roof ventilators dates from circa 1890. Farther along the plantation road is a double row of post–Civil War, board-and-batten-sided, tenant houses, including two-room cabins and small shotgun houses. Beyond them is the working sugar mill, now composed of tall, metal-sided structures and smokestacks. In the twentieth century, metal largely replaced brick as the construction material for mills.
Adapted from Karen Kingsley’s Buildings of Louisiana, part of the Buildings of the United States series commissioned by the Society of Architectural Historians and published by Oxford University Press.