Heart of Louisiana: Ardoyne Plantation Home

Heart of Louisiana: Ardoyne Plantation Home
Updated: Oct. 6, 2015 at 9:40 PM CDT
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TERREBONNE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - When you think about touring a plantation home, Ardoyne in Terrebonne Parish has a much different look. And today it's still owned and lived-in by the same family that built it in the late 1800's.

"The style of the house if Victorian Gothic and if you see it on the National Register of Historic Places it's listed as possibly the largest example of rural Victorian Gothic architecture in the state of Louisiana," said Susan Shaffer, the Plantation's owner.

The Ardoyne Plantation House was built in the 1890's along what became known as 'Sugar Row', a bayou-side string of sugarcane plantations in Terrebonne Parish. It was built by John Dalton Shaffer, the son of German immigrants, who served as a Louisiana state senator.

"He saw a picture in a magazine of what he called a Scottish castle," Susan Shaffer said. "He gave that to the architects who were the Williams brothers in New Orleans, and they ended up building Victorian Gothic."

This house was built from pine and cypress logs that were cut on the plantation property. That timber was then taken to St. Louis where it was milled into boards. The construction was done by migrant farm workers of German, Italian and African descent, who were paid with plantation coins.

"But the only place they could spend that money, those plantation tokens, was at the plantation store," Shaffer said.

The name Ardoyne is a Scottish word for 'little hill'.

"We are on the highest point in the parish, we are about 10 feet above sea level here, so we count every single foot here in south Louisiana," Shaffer said.

Susan Shaffer's husband and his family have lived here for six generations.

"It's almost like stepping back in time when you walk through the door," Susan Shaffer said. "Everything in the house is so original to the family.

All of the furniture, everything from the china to the needlepoint bed coverings are original. Some of the stamped wallpaper is peeling a bit. But it's been on the wall for 120 years. The painted design on the stairs is also original.

"At that time, it was cheaper to hire an artist to come live with you and paint your floors than it was to buy oriental carpet, have it shipped all the way overseas and installed in your house," Shaffer said.

The home features the hobbies and handiwork of long-time resident Margaret Krumbhaar Shaffer, who created the finely stitched clothing for a collection of dolls.

"But what they're made from is what's special," Shaffer said. "We have cypress knees and they are carved on type of cypress knees, so you don't need the hoop skirt when you have a doll carved on a cypress knee."

As you walk around this house, you may get the feeling that you're being watched.

"We have faces that are just random on the walls, in the furniture you'll see faces, and even in the in the light fixtures are faces," Shaffer said. "I found 37 faces just in in the first four rooms and it was all meant for good luck and protection."

Among Louisiana's great plantation homes, Ardoyne has a unique story to tell, a post-Civil War glimpse of a sugarcane plantation, and a way of life that is frozen in time. Hollywood has been to Ardoyne several times, using the Terrebonne Parish site as the location for movies like 'Crazy in Alabama'. The home is open for public tours Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information on Ardoyne, click here.

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