ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Audubon State Historic Site, Louisiana
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Audubon State Historic Site, Louisiana
Oakley Plantation
Built more than 200 years ago, Oakley House is the
centerpiece of Audubon State Historic Site in
St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Audubon State Historic Site
John James Audubon did 32
of his famous bird paintings
while staying at Oakley
Plantation in 1821.
Kitchen at Oakley Plantation
The restored kitchen shows
how cooking was done in a
detached building for safety
from fires.
Wooden Shoes of a Slave
Audubon State Historic Site is
an excellent place to learn
more about the life of African
American slaves in Louisiana.
Audubon State Historic Site - St. Francisville, Louisiana
Oakley Plantation & Grounds
"Almost Supernatural"
Naturalist John James
Audubon described the
grounds of Oakley Plantation
as being so beautiful they
were "almost supernatural."
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Built in around 1806, the beautiful old Oakley
House at Audubon State Historic Site is a
landmark of American history. It was here
that famed naturalist John James Audubon
began at least thirty of his bird paintings.

The park is located on Louisiana Highway
965 just south of historic
St. Francisville,

At the time Oakley House was built, the
plantation lands were still park of Spanish
Louisiana. The United States had secured
the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803,
but the territory west of the Mississippi River,
south of the 31st parallel and north of Lake
Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico was
disputed and still claimed by Spain.

The Florida Parishes which occupied the
region, however, were noted for their rich soil
and the nearby Mississippi River of course
provided an outstanding avenue of water
transportation. As a result, plantations like
Oakley were growing in the area around the
fledgling community that would become St.

When Oakley was built in circa 1806, it
displayed state of the art architectural
influences that had been developed in the
West Indies to allow for better ventilation and
air flow during the hot summers. The
jalousied galleries (jalousies are wooden
shutters) allowed cooling breezes to flow
through, while blocking out some of the heat
and direct sunlight of the day.

As architecturally special as the house itself
is, Oakley's real "claim to fame" originated in
1821when the naturalist John James
Audubon arrived.

Hired by Mr. and Mrs. James Pirrie, owners of
Oakley, to teach their daughter Eliza to draw,
Audubon took up residence in the house. In
those days, naturalists and artists like
Audubon usually traveled from town to town,
living with affluent local residents and
teaching or tutoring while also doing their
other work. Audubon himself, for example,
did this numerous times and the following
year would teach at the nation's first college
for women,
Elizabeth Academy near Natchez,

The famed naturalist was taken by Oakley
Plantation and the surrounding woods and
fields. Of the plantation itself, he wrote that its
beauty seemed "almost supernatural," and
he described the magnolia and other trees in
flowing terms.

Audubon, however, was especially drawn to
birds and while at Oakley he began work on
at least thirty-two of his famed paintings of
wild North American birds. Audubon's work,
of course, was the finest of his time and is
still praised by naturalists today.
The naturalist was paid a good fee for the
time, plus room and board for himself and an
assistant, to spend half his time teaching
Eliza Pirrie. He also taught music, French
and drawing lessons to other pupils in the
area and the money generated helped fund
work on his famous book,
Birds of America.

Audubon's stay at Oakley lasted only four
months, but it was a critical time in his life
and gave him the finances and many of the
paintings he needed to finish his book.

Oakley Plantation survived the Civil War,
which ravaged the area, and the turbulent
years that follows. It was listed on the
National Register of Historic Places in 1973
and is now a Louisiana state historic site.

Audubon State Historic Site is located at
11788 Highway 965 in St. Francisville,
Louisiana. To find it using your GPS, go to N.
30 48.1131 W. 91 18.8664. It is about 5
minutes from St. Francisville and about 30
from Baton Rouge.

The park features the main Oakley House, a
restored plantation kitchen, two slave cabins,
a barn, museum, picnic area and walking
trails through the beautiful grounds.

The entrance fee is $4 per person with
seniors (62 and over ) and children (12 and
under) admitted free. The park is open from 9
a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Please click here to visit
the official website for more information.