Louisiana reopens historic plantation

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Office of State Parks took over management of Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville and reopened it as a state historic site.

Ceremonies on Dec. 1 marked the first public access to the plantation's home and buildings since 1994.

Only the grounds had been accessible to visitors under the previous owner.

"We're eager to resume public tours to a historic treasure that provides a unique window to Louisiana's past," said Phillip Jones, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, shortly before the reopening.

In early November, the state bought the 370-acre antebellum estate, a 40-minute drive north of Baton Rouge, for $5.7 million.

The sale included the home, built in 1835, plus 13 historic buildings and a 28-acre formal garden patterned after the French style of the 17th century.

Also covered in the sale were the original furniture and artifacts, valued at $1.3 million.

Earlier, the proposed purchase sparked controversy, with opposition from those who believed the state's money could be better spent.

Fears and rumors that many of the home's original contents were gone and that the state was getting little for its money, fueled dissent.

On inspection, however, according to Jones, everyone was impressed with the quality and quantity of furnishings and the condition of the grounds.

Minimal preparation was needed for the reopening, he said.

Original plans to reopen the grounds by next spring -- and the home by July -- were abandoned in favor of reopening before the holiday season.

Rosedown, near the Mississippi River and owned by Daniel Turnball before the Civil War, was one of the area's largest cotton plantations.

It was passed to four unmarried sisters, Turnball descendants, who in the 1930s opened the home to tourists while living on the second floor.

Sold in 1956 after the last surviving sister died, it underwent an extensive eight-year restoration, with the home and formal gardens returned to their antebellum state.

The home was closed to the public in 1994 after it came under new ownership.

Rosedown Plantation brings the number of state historic sites operated by the Office of State Parks, which comes under Jones' department, to 16.

On Route 10 in West Feliciana Parish, it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except for certain holidays.

Admission is $10; $8 for those ages 62 and older; $4 for students ages 6 through 17, and free for ages 5 and under.

For details, call the Office of State Parks at (888) 677-1400.

The Web address is www.lastateparks.com.

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