Laura Plantation – recovering from the ashes after a year
Published 12:00 am Monday, August 8, 2005
By JESSICA DAIGLE
VACHERIE — Nearly a year after a devastating fire, Laura Plantation in Vacherie is coming together and getting closer to opening the main house of the popular and historical tourist attraction.
“We’re working everyday,” Norman Marmillion, president of the Laura Plantation Co., “and it’s going faster and faster.”
The plantation house was heavily damaged last August, due to an electrical fire which broke out in the rear of the house and destroyed the roof, as well as all but two rooms on the main floor.
Marmillion said roof work is getting started and the plantation hopes to allow tours in the house by October, with restoration finished by Christmas.
“We have an incredible team working here,” Marmillion said, “everything is done by hand and there are no nails.”
He said his team is a group of “young guys from New Orleans,” some of whom have master’s degrees in historic preservation.
Astoundingly, the Laura Plantation Co. did not miss a beat after the fire, opening the grounds up for tours the very next day.
Named for Laura Locoul Gore, whose great-grandfather was granted the land by the help of Thomas Jefferson, the 200-year old former sugar plantation is known as the first American location the folktales of “Br’er Rabbit” were recorded.
Marmillion said the plantation had been offering short themed tours on slavery or Creole culture before the fire incident, and, the night of the fire, those in the company got together and decided then to combine those tours for a 55-minute tour.
“We put the scripts together that night, without sleeping, typed them up and gave them to the tour guides, who had them known by 9:30 that morning,” Marmillion said.
He said, due to popular request, they will continue part of the combined tour when the main house is opened back up.
Insurance covered the fire damage, and Marmillion also said some fundraising drives held last October were helpful.
“They were very successful, with a lot of local support,” he said.
According to Marmillion, the plantation received a huge donation of lumber from John Cummings, owner of the Whitney Plantation in St. John Parish.
“We would not be where we are today without that.”