The Cottage Plantation was built in 1825 by Abner Duncan, then gifted to his daughter, Frances and her husband, Frederick Conrad. It became a very successful sugar plantation and entertained many distinguished guests. Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis and The Marquis de Lafayette were among the notables. The success would be short-lived, however.
In the 1800s steamboats were a popular mode of travel along the Mississippi River, as well as up and down the bayous which thread Louisiana. However, the steamers that pushed the vessels along the river were analogous to kegs of dynamite. Explosions were common and horrific.
On February 27, 1859, the Steamboat Princess made a stop at a wharf in Baton Rouge to pick up passengers on the way to Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. A dense fog had settled across the Mississippi, which seemed a foreshadowing of what was to come. The boat was full of cotton and passengers, even carrying some politicians from the legislative session that had just ended early for the festivities.
The boat was already late and the steamers were being pushed beyond their limits. You guessed it, the steamers exploded near Conrad Point, 6 miles south of Baton Rouge, by the Cottage Plantation on River Road. The explosion propelled many to action, including the plantation's slaves. They spread sheets and blankets on the lawn and barrels of flour were brought out. The burn victims were rolled in the flour and placed in the shade. Seventy people perished and numerous others were wounded.
Later, the plantation was fired upon by union boats in the Civil War. It was occupied, plundered of its valuables, and Mr. Conrad and his secretary, Angus Holt were taken to New Orleans as prisoners. During this period, the plantation was used as a yellow fever hospital for union soldiers. Mr. Conrad died in New Orleans and Mr. Holt eventually returned to the plantation to care for it until he died in 1880. He became a recluse and a hoarder.
The Conrad family began restoration of the plantation in the 1920s. Stories of ghosts and disease persisted. By the 1950s it was turned into a museum and it was used as a set for many movies, including Band of Angels starring Clark Gable. On a February morning in 1960, the plantation burned to the ground. Only the pillars remain and are slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Every time I have shot this site, there is a haze in the air. Almost as if those flour-covered burn victims are letting their presence be known. Between the columns it appears hazy, even though today was bright and sunny. Oh, the rich stories that Louisiana has to tell.
330mm | f/8 | ISO 400 | 1/640 sec
Baton Rouge Time Travel has an excellent article with more information,
which is where I obtained most of the information for this post.