I spent weeks researching plantations in Louisiana, trying to find one that hadn’t been restored but that was still standing. That turned out to be pretty rare; if a plantation wasn’t kept up by a family who didn’t lose all their money in the Civil War, or get turned into a paying attraction (B&B, tours, etc.), it tended to have disappeared years ago. I kept finding photos that looked promising, only to find out it was an old photo of a house that had burned down in the 1950s or been demolished in the 1970s.
Finally, paydirt: LeBeau, in St. Bernard parish just south of New Orleans–and I mean JUST south, you could probably walk there from the city limits. The most recent photos I was able to find were taken in January of this year, so I was certain enough it was still there to make the drive (and to convince Trish to meet me there). After the war it was a hotel, a brick factory, and an illegal casino. A fire destroyed much of the inside in 1986 and it’s been uninhabited since then. There were some plans to restore it, but then Katrina happened, and it dropped pretty far down the priority list.
I was pretty sure, from some of the photos I’d seen, that there was a hole in that chain link fence somewhere. And I don’t think local kids sprayed that graffiti on from a distance. Trish spotted it, round the back, just big enough for my butt to squeeze through.
We didn’t try to get inside. For one thing, the inside is probably dangerous, because of the fire. That house is several feet off the ground, and falling through the floor could mean breaking a leg or worse. For another, the steps that lead from the ground to the porch either washed away in the storm, or were removed to keep people away from the house (doesn’t appear to have worked for the local graffiti artists), we would have needed a stepladder. Also, see that thing in the doorway that looks like a brain? That’s a GIANT BEEHIVE. Like icebergs, what you can actually see of a beehive usually represents just a small fraction of the structure. The inside of that house probably looks like Candyman’s home.
All that aside, I still wouldn’t have tried to get inside. It’s boarded up, and to get in you would literally have to break and enter. I’ll trespass for a photo, but I draw the line at destruction of property.
So mission accomplished! I photographed an unrestored but standing plantation home. (I also shot some 35mm in my Pink Slim Dress, some 120 in my Diana F+, and several Silver Shade instants.) And Trish sold me a bundle of slightly expired 35mm Fuji–2 dozen 400 and 200–for just $10. So I won’t need to buy any color 35mm for a while!