Historic Structures

Santa Maria Plantation, Baton Rouge Louisiana

Date added: October 7, 2015 Categories: Louisiana Plantations & Farms House

During the tenure of Charles Knowlton and his wife, Kate Andrews Knowlton, Santa Maria was a post-bellum plantation of some significance to the area. The 1880 Agriculture Census reveals the size of the operation. At that time, the Knowltons owned 740 acres of land, of which 440 were improved and 300 were woodlands. Twelve acres planted in sugar cane in 1879 yielded 17 hogsheads of sugar (17,000 pounds) and 1,200 gallons of molasses. Twenty acres of corn yielded 750 bushels.

Gladys Morrill's grandparents were "Charles P. Knowlton (Captain in Confederate Army) and his wife, Katherine (Kate) Andrews, daughter of John Andrews, the founder of Belle Grove Plantation." In a letter on file at the State Historic Preservation Office, Mrs. Morill related what she knew of the history of the house: "My grandfather...and grandmother came from California where they had been living, about 1872, and bought the place....For a good many years my grandfather used the land (I believe there were 1200 acres) to grow sugar cane. He had a sugar house on the place and I remember as a very small child, going with my grandfather to the sugar house to get the thick syrup (lacuite) out of the troughs. Sometime in the 1890s he converted most of the plantation to growing cotton and the sugar house was made into a cotton gin. He did very well until the coming of the boll weevil about the beginning of the century. My grandmother had just died and he was pretty lonesome and despondent there with just me, a small child, for company, so he sold the plantation along with the lovely old furniture in it and the farm equipment, for a mere pittance, to the Ruffin Munsons....About a year after my grandfather sold Santa Maria the railroad bought rights from the Munsons and ran through the property just a few blocks away from the house. It was not close enough, however, to be objectionable and was, probably, a financial help to him.

Unfortunately, Mr. Munson did not find the place a money-maker and I believe he lost it. I know it was taken over by Putnam and Norman, a cotton firm here in New Orleans and they put a manager on it. I remember that they were raising fancy Pollen-China hogs and packaging and selling the most delicious sausage. Then, I don't know in what year, Bradford Hagan bought it. He eventually started the dairy business there which proved so profitable, Santa Maria dairy...Santa Maria was not a large home, as plantation houses go, and its chief beauty, as I remember it, was in its grounds. We had some lovely oak trees and my grandparents kept a Belgian gardener on the place to care for the gardens. My grandmother was a flower lover and her gardens were quite famous."

The main house is 42 feet wide by 47 feet deep with an eight-foot front gallery and a rear wing.

Gladys Morrill, a former resident, described the original structure in a letter dated February 28, 1964, on file in the State Historic Preservation Office, Baton Rouge: "There was a small house, consisting of two rooms on it and they built the main house using the original two rooms for the dining room and kitchen which was attached to the main building by a covered porch....It was a raised, two-story house -- there was a wide porch across the entire front with stairs in the center (not on the side as was later done). There was a central hall behind which was the living room with a very large fireplace. On each side of the hall were bedrooms and behind all another porch with a smaller bedroom to the side. From the back porch a stairs and covered porch led to the dining room and kitchen which were made from the original small place on the grounds when it was purchased. A stairway led from the living room upstairs to the second story. When we lived at Santa Maria there were two finished bedrooms upstairs and the rest of the floor was open.... There was, also, a large unfinished basement which was used for storage."

The dining room and kitchen, originally in a separate structure, were removed. The rear gallery was filled in with three small rooms. An addition to the rear, consisting of a hall and several rooms, was constructed in the 1950s or 1960s. New stairs to the front gallery, approaching it from the end, were added, and the northwest and southeast sides were resheathed in clapboard.