Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site
As a distributary of the Mississippi River and a route to the heartland of Louisiana through the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Plaquemine was used as a navigable artery centuries before the age of European exploration. From the early 1700s, Bayou Plaquemine served as a commercial transport route, promoting settlement and economic prosperity in southwest and northern Louisiana via the Atchafalaya, Red and other rivers.
The Plaquemine Lock was designed by Colonel George W. Goethals (1858-1928), the assistant to the chief engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Goethals later gained distinction as chairman and chief engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission for the design and construction of the Panama Canal.
When completed in 1909, the lock was significant for having the highest fresh water lift of any lock in the world -- 51 feet -- and a unique engineering design that utilized a gravity flow principle. The gates were later modernized by the installation of hydraulic pumps. The lock served its purpose well by providing a short-cut from the Mississippi River into Louisiana's interior. By 1925, Bayou Plaquemine had become the northern terminus of the Intracoastal Canal system.
Increased river traffic during and after World War II put a severe strain on the lock's capacity and demand increased for a larger lock at Port Allen. In 1961, a larger set of locks began operating at Port Allen and the Plaquemine Lock was closed after 52 years of service. Thirteen years after closing the lock, the Corps of Engineers supervised the construction of the present levee across the mouth of Bayou Plaquemine at the Mississippi River, giving the historic old structure greater stability and providing flood protection, while closing off access to the Mississippi River through Bayou Plaquemine.
In 1972 the Plaquemine Lock structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation for significant historic sites. In addition to the lock, the area includes the Gary James Hebert Memorial Lockhouse, which serves as a museum and visitors center. Hebert worked to prevent the destruction of the lock by the Corps of Engineers and campaigned to have the area preserved as a historic site. Facilities also include a stylized adaptation of the Lockmaster's house which provides open-air pavilion space to display various water craft used when the lock was operational.
Audubon State Historic Site (South of St. Francisville on LA 965) - The nearly 200-year-old Oakley House is where John James Audubon drew inspiration and sketched many of the birds found in his famous Birds of America. The visitor may tour the house-turned-museum, formal gardens, an outside kitchen building and barns, walk the trails and enjoy a picnic lunch at the large pavilion nearby.
Centenary State Historic Site (East College and Pine Street in Jackson) - This is the former site of Centenary College. Visitors may tour the old West Wing dormitory or a professor's cottage, and learn about the history of education in Louisiana. A Confederate cemetery is located on the grounds.
Port Hudson State Historic Site (US 61, 30 minutes north of Baton Rouge) - This 909-acre site encompasses part of the Port Hudson Battlefield Civil War Site. Featured are six miles of hiking trails, 11/2 miles of trenches, a museum and interpretive programs. Fort Desperate, a primary Confederate position, is accessible by a concrete walkway and elevated wooden boardwalks.
Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site (In St. Francisville on La. Hwy. 10) - Built during the 1830s, Rosedown had one of the largest private gardens in the U.S. in the 19th century. In addition to the gardens and many original structures, visitors can see many furnishings and items that the Turnbulls themselves brought into the main house.
Iberville Museum (across the street from the lockhouse, south of the Lock) - Built as the Iberville Parish Courthouse in 1849 and later served as Plaquemine's first City Hall, this Greek Revival building served first as the parish and then as the city seat of government until 1985. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses a parish museum.
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (located across Main Street from Old City Hall) - Considered the purest example of Italian Romanesque architecture in the South, it features a beautiful balastrino altar. It was completed in 1926.
Old Homes of Turnerville (23230 Nadler Street, just across the bayou, within walking distance of the lock) - Two-century-old, antique-furnished Acadian cottage style homes of La. 1, just north of Plaquemine.
St. Basil's Academy (23515 Church Street, Plaquemine) - Originally built as the Scratchley family mansion and now the residence of former Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Robert L. Freeman and his wife, the building is the only one remaining of the many buildings which served as a Catholic school and residence for the Sisters Marianites of the Holy Cross from 1859 until 1976.
Nottoway Plantation (30970 Hwy. 405, White Castle,) - The South's largest plantation home, built in 1859. This awe-inspiring home is a classic Greek revival structure with 53,000 square feet of floor space and 50 rooms. Tours offered. Bed & Breakfast, restaurant and gift shop.
West Baton Rouge Museum (845 N. Jefferson Avenue, Port Allen) - See a 1904-vintage 22-foot hand-crafted working model of a sugar mill demonstrating the process of making raw sugar from sugar cane, an 1850 plantation cabin and an 1830 French Creole cottage.
Historic Buildings of Plaquemine - Enjoy the architecture of many local homes and businesses, ranging from Queen Anne-style houses to early Colonial structures to the humble Row houses inhabited by lumber yard workers in the early 1900s.
Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park (north side of the site, just across Bayou Plaquemine) - The Dutch style of the park's pavilion ties into the nearby Lock facility. The boardwalks offer a scenic view of the bayou, and a place for fishing.