Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resources for Writers #2: Antebellum Homes

Last week I blogged about researching story settings. This week I want to get a little more specific. When I began the “blue diamond” challenge thrown out by TWRP’s Crimson Rose line, I decided to set my story in and around a former plantation home in Mississippi. Here are some of the resources I came up with:

1)  Architecture Glossary:  Illustrated Dictionary for Architecture Words

2)  Top 7 Books About Plantation Houses
  • Plantation Houses and Mansions of the Old South by J. Frazier Smith/This book is a reprint from the original in 1936 and includes floor plans for many of the houses. Be SURE to read the disclaimer by the reprinting publisher who “deplores…the racist reflections” of the author who wrote in a time when such were taken for granted. I found this short blurb particularly worthy of applause!
  • Under the Live Oaks: The Last Great Plantation Houses of the Old South by Clarkson Potter (2002)
  • Architecture of the Old South (Abbeville Press, 1993)
  • Marvelous Old Mansions and Other Southern Treasures (John F. Blair, publisher, 2000)
  • Vestiges of Grandeur: The Plantations of Louisiana’s River Road (Chronicle Books Llc, 1999)
  • Virginia Plantation Homes by David Gleason (LSU Press, 1989)
  • Plantation Homes of Louisiana and the Natchez Area (LSU Press, 1983)

Many of these books are quite pricey. I’d imagine they are “coffee table books” put out for browsing. But the first one, which is what I relied on a great deal because of the added bonus of the floor plans, was reprinted in soft-cover, and I found it used at a very cheap price. The other books may also be available that way.

3)  What is Antebellum Architecture? by Jackie Craven at

4)  Welcome to McRaven
I included this because I have visited McRaven twice and yet didn’t know all the fascinating facts provided on its website. I’d suggest googling individual homes by name (see 5) below to discover more in-depth information)

5)  Wikipedia: Plantations in Mississippi
10 links to antebellum homes in Ms

At the bottom of the page, there is a link  to plantations by state where you’ll find information about antebellum homes in  AL, FL,GA,KY,LA,MD,NC,SC,TN,TX,VA,WV. At each site, you'll find the  location, coordinates, area, year built/founded, architectural style(s), when it was designated as a National Historic Landmark,  and the governing body—whether it is a private entity or run by an organization. You’ll also enjoy the thumbnail pictures and the text with more details about the house—for example, a family cemetery on the grounds, the proximity of the house to a Civil War battle, even resident “ghosts”!

Why go to all this trouble to research a setting? In my opinion, it lends credibility to the story and makes available descriptive details that the author would otherwise have to invent herself. For me, research takes me where I’ve never been and may never go—and I have to believe that it will do the same for the reader.


Margaret Tanner said...

Great post.
I agree with about research being critical, but it is the little extra that you obviously do that shows in your writing. I like to think I do that too. In one of my historicals, Devil's Ridge, set during the 1st World War, the heroine is falsely imprisoned, so I went to an old jail, which is now a tourist attraction, and sat in one of the cells. What an eye opener that was. Cold, spookey, and if the door was closed you would have felt like you were entombed.

K9friend said...

I've often thought it would be great fun to do a tour of southern antebellum homes.

Sounds like these books might be the next best thing.

Anne Marie Novark said...

Great post, Judy!!!

Those big "coffee table books" can be some of the best resource books.

AM :)

nlindabrit said...

I will never forget the brief visits I made to the cities of Charleston and Savanannah and the wonderful houses I saw!