If you’ve seen the movie Interview with a Vampire, then you’ve seen Oak Alley Plantation. It was the home of the vamp, Louis, played by the hunky Brad Pitt, but it’s also been in various other video productions like Beyoncé’s music video for Déjà Vu, and the movie also named Déjà Vu starring Denzel Washington. Located at 3645 Hwy 18, Vacherie, LA 70090, it’s open daily from 9am to 5pm, and admission costs $25 per adult, $10 for youth aged 13 to 18, and $7 for 5 or younger. You can either pay the admission and walk the grounds, or you can dine at the Oak Alley Restaurant & Inn, stay the night in one of the numerous cottages, or even get married there, if you so choose…
We decided to simply walk around on our own and towards the exhibits, particularly the “Slavery at Oak Alley Exhibit”. These are various reconstructed cottages and huts that resemble the ones slaves were forced to live in while being enslaved at Oak Alley. There was information about their lives posted throughout, as well as various items they would’ve used inside the cottages, such as furniture, clothing, and cooking/eating utensils. There was not too much else inside the cabins.
As mentioned, there were several informative signs posted throughout, like; “Why would a slave visit the sick house?”, information about the laundry kettle and how the slave women were forced to hand wash endless loads of laundry for the entire plantation, “Expectations: Life as a House Slave”, and emancipation. One of the cottages was dedicated to the clothing, identity, and life of the average slave. One of the huts was dedicated to the kinds of tools they’d be made to use while attending to the various grounds of the plantation.
One of the cottages was the “Post-emancipation Quarters”, which had a wall with the names of numerous people who were enslaved at Oak Alley. Here is where we learned that over 220 men, women, and children were held at Oak Alley during its history as a plantation. We learned about the hierarchy that existed among slave ranks, and how entire families could be demoted to the bottom of the barrel for the perceived sins of one family member.
We eventually made our way up an oak-lined alleyway towards the “Main House”. This is not the famous alleyway from where the plantation gets its name, but its smaller, lesser-known cousin. We arrived about 5 minutes before the next tour was set to begin, which is when I was able to run down the famous oak-lined walkway and snap the obligatory Oak Alley picture. It’s undeniably a beautiful location, with the best view standing at the end of the famous oak-lined walkway, looking towards the Main House.
Tours of the Main House are included in the price of admission, you just must wait for the next tour to begin and cannot wander the house by yourself. Unfortunately, photography is strictly forbidden inside the main house. However, almost all the inside décor and furniture is not original anyway, save for a few pieces like a set of china and a 19th-century ceiling fan in the dining room. Our guide explained the history of the Main House, how it came to be built, the various owners, the history of the plantation, and of course, the slaves who worked here. The house feels rather small on the inside, but it’s easy to imagine how grand and opulent it would’ve been in its heyday. Not all of the areas inside the home are accessible, but we were able to see most of it. This included bedrooms, sitting rooms, dining room, and offices. After the tour of the inside was complete, the guide took us to the upstairs balcony where we were greeted with a great view of the oak-lined walkway from above.
Overall, I did enjoy visiting Oak Alley Plantation, as I enjoy historic places and learning about history, plus I’ve never toured a legitimate southern plantation before. It was humbling and eye-opening to learn up close about the past of Oak Alley, the South, and Louisiana. It’s an experience I think everyone should have at least once, as it puts things into a different perspective that I don’t believe can be achieved through textbooks or Google. Please give Oak Alley Plantation a visit if you’re ever in the New Orleans or Baton Rouge area!