7 Antebellum Gardens to Visit

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Afton Villa's formal boxwood parterre was inspired by the original owners' honeymoon tour of Europe. Photo courtesy of Afton Villa.

Afton Villa's formal boxwood parterre was inspired by the original owners' honeymoon tour of Europe. (Photo: Courtesy of Afton Villa)

Afton Villa

Location: St. Francisville, Louisiana
History: Although the Gothic revival mansion of Afton Villa burned to the ground in 1963, the plantation's current owners spent 20 years restoring the gardens that surround the ruins. Highlights include a half-mile-long drive of more than 250 live oaks, a formal boxwood parterre, and fields of daffodils.
Details: The gardens are open from March 1 to June 30 and October 1 to December 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children under 12.
For more information: (225) 635-6773; aftonvilla.com

Oak Alley Plantation

Location: Vacherie, Louisiana
History: The quarter-mile canopy of towering 300-year-old live oak trees lining the avenue to the plantation is Oak Alley's most distinctive feature—but the 28 solid brick columns that line the impressive portico come in at a close second. The 1839 house underwent a major restoration in 1925 when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Stewart, who sparked a trend of saving old plantations in the area. The distinctive house and grounds have been the setting for scenes from several movies, including Interview with a Vampire.
Details: Oak Alley is open for tours year-round, seven days a week (except certain holidays), from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The grounds open a half-hour earlier, and the house closes at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, November through February.) Tickets are $18 for adults; discounts for students and children are available. You can also stay on the grounds in an updated century-old plantation cottage; rates start at $130 per night and include breakfast.
For more information: (800) 442-5539; oakalleyplantation.com

Melrose Plantation

Location: Natchez, Mississippi
History: In the plantation-studded town of Natchez, Melrose earns the distinction of being the only antebellum home managed by the National Park Service. The 1840s Greek Revival house and surrounding 80 acres of grounds (including a landscaped park and formal gardens) were once owned by cotton baron John McMurran. (For even more antebellum immersion, stay down the street at Monmouth Plantation, a grand circa 1818 home owned by McMurran's friend, General John A. Quitman, and now a renowned luxury hotel.)
Details: Part of the Natchez National Historical Park, Melrose is open every day of the year (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), with tours every hour from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. (grounds are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Adult tickets are $8; youth and seniors, $4; and children under 6 are free.
For more information: (601) 446-5790; nps.gov/natc

Rosedown Plantation

The gardens at Rosedown Plantation

The gardens at Rosedown Plantation. (Photo: Mary Hughes)

Location: St. Francisville, Louisiana
History: Inspired by the tour of Europe they took for their honeymoon, Daniel and Martha Turnbull created lavish, European-style gardens at their circa-1835 Federal-Greek Revival plantation, Rosedown. Lovingly cultivated by Mrs. Turnbull throughout her life, the gardens eventually spread to encompass 28 acres, which were restored to their 19th-century glory in 1956 by the plantation's new owner, Catherine Fondren Underwood.
Details: Now a Louisiana State Historic Site, Rosedown is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is $10 for adults; discounts are available for senior citizens and children under 18.
For more information: (888) 376-1867; crt.state.la.us/parks/irosedown.aspx

Battle-Friedman House

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
History: Built in 1835, the Battle-Friedman House remained in the ownership of the two eponymous families until it was turned over to the city of Tuscaloosa for preservation in 1965. Its garden, which originally took up an entire city block, features a unique interlocking-diamond-patterned parterre, and boasts the only surviving antebellum greenhouse in the state.
Details: Unless it's rented for a private event, the Battle-Friedman House is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person; children under 12 are free.
For more information:historictuscaloosa.org

Andrew Low House

Location: Savannah, Georgia
History: Savannah's Andrew Low House is considerably less-trafficked than the birthplace of his daughter-in-law, Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, which serves as a pilgrimage of sorts for the organization's members. While Juliette Gordon Low did live briefly in this home as well, the landscaping is the star here—the small garden fronting Lafayette Square boasts an original hourglass-shaped parterre delineated by garden tiles, and is a great example of an urban antebellum garden.
Details: Tours are given every half hour on each day of the week except Thursday; weekday and Saturday tours start at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m., while Sunday tours go from 12 to 4 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $4.50 for children under 12 and Girl Scouts.
For more information: (912) 233-6854; andrewlowhouse.com

Hampton-Preston Mansion

Location: Columbia, South Carolina
History: Purchased in 1823 by a wealthy Revolutionary War general and his garden-loving wife, the Hampton-Preston Mansion features an elaborate garden lovingly honed over the years by both the original proprietress and her daughter. Although the gardens were destroyed in the 1940s, the Historic Columbia Foundation is currently revitalizing them as part of a multi-phase rehabilitation project.
Details: The Hampton Preston Mansion (along with two other houses maintained by the Historic Columbia Foundation) is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to all three houses is $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 17 (kids under 6 are free), or admission to the Hampton Preston House only is $6 for adults and $3 for kids over 6.
For more information: (803) 252-7742; historiccolumbia.org