A Window into the Past

Pristinely tucked away from the bustle of Hwy. 311, resting amongst the grand oaks, sits Ardoyne Plantation. Designed by W. C. Williams and Brothers Architects in New Orleans, the Victorian Gothic style was chosen by Ardoyne Plantation owner, Senator John Dalton Shaffer. Construction on the home began in 1888, being completed in 1894.

Although the home wasn’t completed until 1894, Ardoyne Plantation has been producing sugar cane since 1838. The original owner of the plantation, when it was a mere 1100 acres along Little Bayou Black, was Sarah Hanna. The plantation passed through several persons in the Hanna family until the Civil War. In 1888, 1000 acres of Ardoyne Planation were sold to John Dalton Shaffer and construction on the home began.

The Victorian Gothic construction is considered by the National Register of Historical Places to possibly be the largest and most elaborate remaining examples in the state of Louisiana. The home contains 21 rooms including 7 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 12 fireplaces. The first floor boasts 16-foot cove-molded ceilings with octagonal patters of bedded beams. The tower reaches 75 feet above the ground, helping to provide ventilation.

Like the icing on a cake, decorative gingerbread woodwork adorns the exterior of the home. As you step foot into the main entry of the home, you are immediately transported back in time. Aside from the massive ceilings, you are immediately drawn to the hand-stamped wallpaper and hand-painted staircase. The home also features original chandeliers and Victorian Gothic gasoliers.

Ardoyne Plantation has remained in the Shaffer family since 1888. Six generations of family have lived in the home. The home was passed to Senator Shaffer’s son John Jackson Shaffer in 1927, then to his son Milhado Lee Shaffer in 1943. After a tragic accident took his life, the home was passed to daughter Margaret Minor Shaffer in 1977. In 2009, the plantation was passed to Milhado Lee Shaffer III. Lee and his wife Susan, who call Ardoyne Plantation home, opened their doors to public tours in 2014.

“For me, it’s coming home,” shares Lee about living in the historic home. “I lived right down the road and spent a lot of time here. This was my grandmother’s home. After being in the military for so long, this was coming back to family.”

The couple thoroughly enjoys living at Ardoyne, each having their own favorite spaces. For Lee, it’s the porch. Serving as the home’s living room, versus the formal Ladies’ Parlor, he shares that the quiet mornings and cool evening breeze are what make the space his favorite. For Susan, the tower is her favorite, housing her quilting room.

Susan gives tours of Ardoyne, Tuesdays through Saturdays. “It’s fun to share the history,” she explains. “It’s not just the family history, but the history and culture of the bayou.”

Photos by Channing Candies