THE JEFFERSON ROOM
Within the walls of Destrehan Plantation, there is a climate controlled room displaying an original document signed by Thomas Jefferson. The document dated 1804, assigns four men, one of whom is Jean Noel Destrehan, to the Orleans Territorial Council. This document is considered one of the most important in Louisiana history and is known as the “Jefferson Document.” Quality reproductions of other documents vital to Louisiana history are also on display in the Jefferson Room.
The men listed on the “Jefferson Document” were hand picked to form the Orleans Legislative Council. This group of respected landowners, with long histories in Louisiana, helped ease the cultural transition of the Orleans Territory into an American representative democracy. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the people of the Orleans Territory still considered themselves Frenchmen or Spaniards and their attitude towards the new American rule clashed with their deeply rooted traditions. The Orleans Legislative Council was vital in representing the residents of this area to the United States until Louisiana became a state in 1812. The council gave Louisianians an immediate voice in their new system of government.
One precedent established during this tenure that continues today is the subdividing of Louisiana into Parishes as opposed to counties, as in the rest of the nation.
HERBERT J. HARVEY, JR. LEGACY ROOM
A state-of-the-art museum display room with artifacts and documents from the Destrehan family. The Legacy Room contains a touchscreen computer system with images of over 600 Destrehan family documents available for historical research.
1811 SLAVE REVOLT MUSEUM AND HISTORICAL RESEARCH AND EDUCATION CENTER
Available for viewing during regular tour hours, the 1811 Slave Revolt exhibit depicts artwork and display items. Destrehan Plantation was the site of the trial which resulted from the Revolt. The building also houses other photos and displays about Destrehan Plantation. Learn about the Creole system of slave management, Louisiana statehood, life on a sugar plantation, French Colonial architecutre and the Rost Home Colony.
OPEN HEARTH COOKING
The Cuisine, or cooking building, was recently completed. Open hearth cooking is demonstrated each Monday. Cooking was done using various pots, kettles and Dutch ovens. An entire meal could be prepared with the use of a Dutch oven, a pot with a lid. A main fire was used to create hot coals or embers that were placed on the lid or under the pot to slow cook the food.
The method and materials used in the construction of the plantation house was bousillage entre’pateaux, mud between post. The bousillage is made of clay, river sand and moss, to hold the mixture together. The bousillage is formed into a tache’, a loaf, and hung on the barreauxs, sticks between the cypress beams or posts, that form the walls. The bousillage formed a solid mud wall that was plastered and then painted. This bousillage formed a wonderful and very effective insulation.
Destrehan Plantation was originally an indigo plantation. Indigo was grown, processed and exported from Destrehan Plantation to various parts of the world. Indigo is a type of plant that when processed is used to dye yarn or threads to be woven into fabrics. During colonial times, it was used basically for soldier uniforms. It was not a very profitable industry so Plantation owner Jean Noel Destrehan began growing sugar cane as his major cash crop.
Candle making was a part of the everyday life for all households away from the cities. In the cities such as New Orleans candle makers, or chandlers as they were often called, went from home to home to perform this task. Candles were made of flax suet(animal fat) and bees wax and sometimes scented with bayberry. Candles were hand dipped or made with molds. Candle making was a task that was often done by the lady of the house.
AFRICAN AMERICAN HERBAL REMEDIES
Just as Africans brought their customs, traditions and religious beliefs with them from Africa, they also brought their medicinal remedies and cures. They also developed cures and remedies themselves. These remedies were highly valued by the white population of the plantation. This demonstration shows how honey, cow manure, leeches, herbs and other products were used as remedies. Some of these remedies are still used today.
Construction methods of the 1780s are demonstrated with models and actual tools, includes millsawn, hand hewn and the mortise and tenon joints. Also, compares tools with their more modern counterparts to show how improvements in technology impact building methods.
Once each weekday and on Saturday, visitors are treated to a trade demonstration by costumed artisans of long-forgotten skills that were a vital part of everyday life centuries ago.
OUTBUILDINGS AND GARDENS
Destrehan Plantation has regained many authentic out-buildings. The largest of these, the Mule Barn was donated by a neighboring plantation and reconstructed on site. This structure houses the many weddings, dinner parties, group lunches and special events the plantation hosts. Special group tours for children can be arranged through the plantation’s award winning Heritage Education Program. A vintage garden is located on the grounds thanks to the dedication and cultivation of local Master Gardeners.