Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation Geismar Louisiana
Seven miles above the Darrow ferry, facing the Mississippi River across a great mall and backed by enormous oaks, stands Belle Helene, one of the most impressive examples of the Greek Revival in Louisiana. Its faded yellow washed walls, the gray woodwork and the small peak of purple slate roof showing above the heavy Greek cornice leaves an unforgettable impression of simplicity as achieved by the plantation builders during the most affluent period of Louisiana's history. We have become so accustomed to seeing the plantation house through the vista of a large avenue of oaks that we sense a realization of new ideas. Was it perhaps inspired by the romantic trend of England where the houses were being placed with extensive views over large meadows and the allies destroyed?
In plan the house is square, surrounded by a colonnade with eight columns on each face a large hall through the center gives access to the principal rooms, and, off the end of this hall, is a well designed circular stairway that leads to the second story. The rooms are large and now bare - but what a background for the rosewood furniture and accessories that Ashland Plantation (as Belle Helene was then known) no doubt had.
The house is built of brick and stuccoed; the floors are of pine as are also the galleries; the columns are square - not round as is usual in Louisiana; the details are Greek Revival, taken no doubt from one of the architectural handbooks of Asher Benjamin or Minard Lefevre which were then current.
Built in 1841 by Duncan Kenner, a prominent planter of the day, who in 1839 married Nanine Brangier of the adjoining HERMITAGE Plantation, ASHLAND was the center of the social and political life of this rich sugar section prior to the Civil War. Duncan Kenner was elected to the Confederate Congress and was special commissioner and minister plenoipotenianary to France in 1863. It is interesting to note that he urged Jefferson Davis to free the slaves.