Rosedown Plantation in 1934
|Location||US 61 and LA 10, St. Francisville, Louisiana|
|Architectural style||Federal, Greek Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||01000765|
|Added to NRHP||August 7, 2001|
|Designated NHLD||April 5, 2005|
Rosedown Plantation is located in the West Feliciana community of St. Francisville along one of the most historic corridors in South Louisiana.
Society in and around St. Francisville, at the time that Rosedown was constructed, was dominated by European, primarily British, settlers who became cotton planters on an enormous scale. Most of the 19th century cotton barons of all nationalities had requested and received their plantations through the Spanish government, the titles to which remained valid after the establishment of the United States government. The parents of Daniel and Martha (Barrow) Turnbull, the original owners of Rosedown, achieved high social status in West Feliciana through their immense cotton operations, and Daniel Turnbull himself was known before the Civil War as one of the richest men in the nation.
Rosedown, named for a play that the Turnbulls saw on their honeymoon, was not assembled by Spanish Land Grant, but in a group of seven purchases made by Daniel Turnbull from the 1820s through the 1840s. At its largest, Rosedown comprised approximately 3,455 acres, mostly planted in cotton. Daniel and Martha began construction on the main house at Rosedown in 1834, completing it by May the following year for a total cost of $13,109.20. The Federal-Greek revival–style main house (ca. 1835), complete with Grecian-style wings (ca. 1845), is at the head of a 660-foot-long (200 m) oak allee. The home was furnished with imported goods from Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Europe. Most of the furnishings remained with the house during the years after the American Civil War. A large percentage of original pieces are still displayed at Rosedown. Near the main house are several dependencies, most notably three latticed summerhouses and a Greek temple-style doctor's office.
The gardens were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life. On a European Grand Tour the Turnbulls visited the great formal gardens of France, Italy, and England. the influence of which can be seen in Martha's activities at Rosedown. The gardens were actually begun prior to the construction of the house, however, as early as 1836, there are records showing the purchase of camellias, azaleas, and other plants from William Prince & Sons in New York. The gardens were slowly extended from the house over many years to cover approximately 28 acres (11 ha). Mrs. Turnbull kept a detailed garden diary during her sixty-year tenure at Rosedown. In the 19th century, Rosedown was one of the few privately maintained formal gardens in the United States.
The contribution of slave labor to the construction and upkeep of the plantation, as well as agricultural prosperity and wealth accrued by Daniel Turnbull, was immense. During peak years of cotton production, as many as 450 slaves worked at Rosedown. The couple had three children, William, Sarah and James Daniel. James Daniel died of yellow fever in 1843, at the age of 7. William married Caroline Butler, and had two children, William and Daniel. William drowned in a boating accident crossing "Old River" in 1856 at the age of 27. That left their daughter Sarah. She married James Bowman from the nearby Oakley Plantation. They moved into Rosedown and had ten children, eight girls and two boys. Martha and Daniel retired to a wing in the back of the house in 1859 to accommodate Sarah and James' growing family.
After Daniel's death in 1861, the family saw a steady decline in a way of life that could no longer be supported. Rosedown and two other Turnbull plantations were ravaged during the war both by the invasion of Northern Troops and by the loss of the slave labor workforce. The Turnbull/Bowman family stayed at Rosedown throughout the war, protecting and farming the property as best they could with 250 sharecroppers.
Martha Turnbull died in September, 1896, leaving Sarah in sole possession of Rosedown. After Sarah's death in 1914, Sarah's four unmarried daughters (Corrie, Isabel, Sarah and Nina) took over the plantation. In the 1930s they decided to open the house to tourists interested in the remnants of the prosperous cotton culture. The sisters made extraordinary sacrifices to hold Rosedown, and when Miss Nina, the last surviving sister, died in 1955, there were no bills or mortgages outstanding on the property and they still had 3,000 acres of land, the 28 acres of gardens, the house and all its furnishings. The family was Episcopalian and are interred at the Grace Church Cemetery in St. Francisville.
After Miss Nina's death, Rosedown passed to her nieces and nephews, who decided to sell the old plantation. In 1956, Catherine Fondren Underwood, herself an enthusiastic amateur horticulturalist, purchased it and began an eight-year, ten million dollar, restoration of the house and formal gardens. The Underwoods returned Rosedown to function as a working cattle farm, and restored the old home to its former grandeur. They opened the house for tours in 1964.
Currently, the Office of State Parks preserves the main house, historic gardens, 12 historic outbuildings and 311 remaining acres of Rosedown Plantation as a state historic site. State Park staff and volunteers conduct tours and programs to illustrate plantation life in the 1800s.
Other state sites in the area include Audubon SHS, which features the Barrow family's Oakley Plantation home; Centenary SHS which looks to Louisiana's early higher education initiatives; Locus Grove Cemetery, which is the last resting place of Sarah Knox Taylor, Zachary Taylor's first wife; and Port Hudson SHS, site of the longest siege in American military history.
Rosedown is located at 12501 La. Hwy. 10 in West Feliciana Parish. It is open 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m. daily; closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Guided tours of the main house are provided on the hour from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. There is an admission fee.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- Donna Fricker, Patty Henry, and Erika Martin Seibert (March, 2001). PDF (873 KB). National Park Service.
- "Rosedown". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2008-06-24.
- "Turnbull, Martha Hilliard Barrow". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 30, 2010.
- Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site - official site
- Rosedown Plantation - National Park Service travel itinerary