DONALDSONVILLE, La. (WAFB) - It’s the newest old home on the block. A plantation home you may not know about.
If you’ve taken a ride down Highway 1 south of Donaldsonville, you’ve probably seen it nestled among the trees: the old Palo Alto Plantation.
Until recently, most people saw it only in passing. Now, it has opened its doors to the public, and people are coming from all over to see it.
“Certainly, we’ve had people from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, all over the world," Peter Lemann said.
Peter is the latest Lemann to own the old place, which was built back in 1847 by Pierre Oscar Ayraud, a relative of his. It was purchased by the Lemann side of the family in 1867, and the family has owned it ever since.
Lemann knows every inch of the place, down to the original breezeways and latticework.
Visitors can do more than just tour the plantation though; they can stay there too. The Lemanns have converted the home into a bed and breakfast. The self-contained apartment was originally the kitchen, separate from the house, allowing guests to stay on-site as they tour the plantation and venture out into south Louisiana.
While some parts of the house have changed over the years, the Lemanns are rehabbing and restoring other parts to look as it once did. Window panes roughly 170 years old etched with names and initials display the history of the plantation.
“My understanding is that when rings were given for engagement, the young ladies would check to make sure the rings were true diamonds," Lemann said.
From true diamonds to a true treasure along Bayou LaFourche, Palo Alto is rich with that kind of history.
One of the bigger battles of the Civil War happened on the grounds in July of 1863 - the Battle of the Kock’s Plantations. Over 7,000 Union troops and 500 Confederate soldiers waged war in the same trees that shroud the pathways around the home.
The Confederates emerged victorious and many artifacts, such as pieces of uniforms, buttons, bullets, and coins have since been recovered from that era right across the street from the home in what is now a cane field.
It all helps tell the story.
Even the height of the doorknobs showcases the age of the home, sitting lower than you’d see in a 20th century building. The average height of men and women was about five inches shorter when the home was constructed.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of work it takes to keep the place running and looking good. While visiting, visitors will find Lemann on his old mower quite often.
Now, when people drive by and see him out there, they know they can stop by. Palo Alto is open for business and ready to show off more than 170 years of history.