Monday, December 7, 2015

Rip Van Winkle On The Bayou

From Betty's RV Park, Abbeville, Louisiana       On our last full day as tourists in Louisiana, the six of us drove south to Jefferson Island, Louisiana. Upon arrival we were greeted by a flock of beautiful pink spoonbills that I tried hard to photograph, but failed miserably. They are always in the area though as are some other rescued birds.
Like Avery Island, Jefferson Island sits atop a salt dome.
This one is just 20 acres and is the first in a line of a total of five domes

We are here to see the Joseph Jefferson Mansion and Rip Van Winkle Gardens. Like most everything else we've seen and done here, this proves to be a terrific choice for an adventure.

Rip Van Winkle Gardens was named for the actor, Joseph Jefferson and the character he played on stage

Joseph Jefferson (1829-1905) was an actor who first appeared on stage at age 3. He immortalized the character Rip Van Winkle in the play of the same name by Washington Irving. Joseph Jefferson played Rip Van Winkle all around the world. He became internationally famous had many friends and followers, not the least of which was President Grover Cleveland, who visited Jefferson here on occasion. President Cleveland, Joseph Jefferson and the McIllhenny men of the Tabasco fame surely were all friends as their names interchange here often.

Huge stands of arching bamboo give a tunnel effect

An interesting incident happened on this property in 1980, when a drilling rig accidentally pierced one of the caverns of the salt dome mines under Jefferson Island's Lake Peigneur. Within three hours, the entire eleven acre lake drained into the once profitable but now ruined salt mine beneath the earth. All the drilling equipment, a new 9-month old home and at least one barge were sucked down into a huge whirlpool. By some miracle, not a single life was lost that day. In the coming weeks, the barge somehow managed to pop back to the surface of the lake. The only remaining sign of the house is a brick chimney that protrudes from the lake. It's a weird sight but I failed to photograph it somehow.

Real men push dog strollers
It is commonly believed that the pirate, Jean Lafitte, seeking a hiding place, brought a shallow-draft pirate boat to this area and buried treasure of gold and silver coins on the Joseph Jefferson property. The claim was substantiated in 1923, when three pots of gold and silver coins were found beneath two large live oak trees here.  Seems a voodoo man called Daynite was around when the stash was found. Daynite absconded with the loot. The twin live oaks were named the Lafitte Oaks.

Joyce stands beneath Lafitte Oaks where Jean Lafitte's pirate treasure was buried.

Joyce, Pam, Wayne, Lexie and Ozzie along one of the garden pathways. 

About the home. It is a twenty-two room mansion with a fourth-floor cupola. It's architecture is a mix of Moorish, Steamboat Gothic, French and Southern Plantation styling. I was especially happy to learn that almost all of the home furnishings are original to the owners.  The price of admission ($10 / $8 seniors) grants visitors the chance to tour the home's interior in addition to the gardens. I'm not usually thrilled at home interior tours, but this one was especially good and the credit goes, in large part, to the remarkably gifted woman who guided us through the home. Her storytelling ability are enviable. I failed to take her picture but she was sure good at what she does.

The Joseph Jefferson Mansion, built in 1870.It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Some of the oak trees are 350 years old.
This is one of the prettiest scenes... looking down the lane from the front yard. 
In addition to it's historical significance, the Joseph Jefferson Mansion and Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island serves as a splendid place for weddings and other special occasions. There's a cafe on the property and there are cottages available for overnight guests

The tree behind Lexie, Ozzie and me is a 350 year old live oak.
President Grover Cleveland napped under the tree's branches when he visited his friend, Joseph Jefferson. 

In 1869, Joseph Jefferson bought this 20 acre plot of land to use as a hunting and fishing camp.

View from the home's front porch 

Joyce and Pam loved being in the gardens. 

Huge stands of bamboo made a cavern through which we all walked and looked very small. 

No, Pam, you may not pick the bananas 

Rip Van Winkle Gardens is pet friendly. Lexie and Ozzie enjoyed the day with us. 

With the conclusion of this property tour, our time in Louisiana will conclude and we will pull up stakes and move along.  Our next stop is San Antonio. We hope you'll join us there.

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