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St. Emma Plantation

St. Emma Plantation was the site of a Civil War skirmish known as the Battle of Kock's Plantation.

St. Emma Plantation

Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum

St. Emma Plantation. Johnston, Frances Benjamin (Photographer)

Although it has been proposed that St. Emma Plantation was the work of New Orleans architect Henry Howard, his hand is not apparent in this well-proportioned but quite traditional design. Nor does Howard claim it as his work in his autobiographical sketch of 1872. German-born sugar planter Charles A. Kock had purchased the property from Jean-Baptiste Letorey in 1854. The census of 1860 records that Kock owned 124 slaves, who lived in thirty cabins on the St. Emma grounds, located on the west bank of Bayou Lafourche, southwest of Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish. About two miles farther south, on the east side of Bayou Lafourche, Kock also owned Belle Alliance Plantation, where he housed another 180 enslaved workers. Kock was one of the largest sugar planters in Louisiana before the Civil War.

The two-and-one-half-story Greek Revival house has a ground floor of brick that is stuccoed and scored to resemble stone and an upper story of wood. Front and rear two-story galleries are supported on rectangular brick piers at ground level and square paneled wood supports above. The front gallery’s iron railings were cast in Gothic Revival designs of pointed arches and quatrefoils. In the nineteenth century, a double staircase at the front of the house led to the second floor. Both staircases are now in the galleries, one at the front and the other at the rear. In the post-Civil War period, plantation workers probably used the rear staircase to reach a second-floor room at the back of the house that contained a cubicle where they received their pay. The relocation or addition of staircases in Louisiana plantation houses was a common occurrence, and it is interesting to speculate on whether such alterations resulted from changes in fashion, in family size and activities, or in relationships between owners and slaves or servants—or from all of these factors. Following Creole tradition, St. Emma has no interior stairs, but it has an Anglo-American central-hall plan, with three rooms on each side; an angled bay was later added to one side.

St. Emma and nearby Palo Alto Plantation were the scenes of a Civil War confrontation in 1862—usually referred to as the Battle of Kock’s Plantation—during which 465 Union soldiers were killed. The sugarhouses of both plantations also quartered Confederate troops. Charles Kock sold the plantation in 1869, after which it had a succession of owners. The house is now a private residence; it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Adapted from Karen Kingsley’s Buildings of Louisiana, part of the Buildings of the United States series commissioned by the Society of Architectural Historians (www.sah.org) and published by Oxford University Press.