Area plantations nearly unharmed by Katrina’s wrath

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — Even though there are huge impacts of lost revenue, local plantations suffered no damage, and keep their spirits high for the future.

Oak Alley, Destrehan, St. Joseph, Laura, Evergreen and San Francisco plantations were all spared by Hurricane Katrina, but most of their business came from the New Orleans area. Now that New Orleans has been closed, their have been less tourists and skeleton crews.

Oak Alley Plantation Assistant Director Connie Becnel said everything is open.

“We have about 12 people a day coming through,” she said. “We are just waiting on New Orleans to open back up, so tourists will come. Our restaurant is open, as well as our gift shop with beautiful things to buy.”

Oak Alley is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., touring on the hour.

Destrehan Plantation is open for tours daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as needed and has changed the distribution of their brochures throughout the state to attract more groups and interests, according to Secretary Pat Wright.

St. Joseph plantation has only been open since October 2004, but because the site is run by family and friends, they have not had to lay off any workers.

“We are open 9:30a.m. to 4 p.m. as needed,” said Operations Manager Gayla Rogers. “We are operating at 100 percent. We are currently updating our newsletter entitled ‘We survived Katrina,’ which will be distributed to different tour companies. We were lucky to have a staff of family and friends that are there to help if we need them.”

St. Joseph and Evergreen Plantation are participating in free Saturday and Sunday tours.

Evergreen Plantation Director Jane Boddie said they will be operating on a weekend schedule starting Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for at least the next six months.

They are also doing by appointment only during the week and will give group discounts. During the six months half of the proceeds will go to the plantation and the other half will go to charity.

Laura Plantation Tour Guide Jay Schexnaydre said they will also open up on Oct. 1 from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. and will take groups by appointment in advance.

“We have lost 100 percent of revenue,” he said. “When there are no hotels there are no tourists.

He said the plantation plans to look toward Baton Rouge for future tourists.”

San Francisco Plantation’s General Manager Kim Fontenot said business was hurt, because they catered to many visitors from New Orleans.

“We have been fortunate,” she said. “We suffered no damage. We are continuing our remodeling and by Oct. 1 we should be set to go. We are still open for weddings, company retreats and parties.”

Fontenot said the workers that are not at the plantation are doing volunteer work in the community with United Way, Ministry of Care and other organizations.

“Even though we are not in New Orleans, many of our friends and tourists came from there,” she said. “It is just so sad, but I know New Orleans will be opened and things will get back to normal. I know it will.”