Sunday, January 3, 2016

'Way Down South: Antebellum Homes

When one thinks of the “old south”, sprawling plantations with magnificent columned houses comes to mind. Indeed, the antebellum homes of this region are its treasures.
Antebellum means “pre-war”, specifically the time after the American Revolution but before the Civil War and is associated with the southern United States. More specifically, antebellum is used to describe a particular type of architecture of the 19th century: Georgian, Neo-classical, and Greek Revival. The previous links will describe the origin and basic characteristics of each type of architecture. 

Fotolia/copyright Christian Delbert

Many of these homes have fallen into ruin, but others have survived to be listed on the National Historic Register. You can scan these images and research more about any which spark your interest. Many, purchased and restored by new owners, have become bed and breakfast meccas for tourists in the South. The Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez MS draws hundreds of visitors to view homes with evocative names such as Longwood, Melrose, Rosalie, Stanton Hall, and Magnolia Hall. (Mississippi will celebrate its tricentennial in 2016!)

Here’s a list of books you might want to consult if you’re writing in this period and want to go in depth:
2)  Top 9 Books About Plantation Houses (with links to each)
·       Great Houses of the South (Rizzoli, 2010)
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Georgia’s Grandeur: Georgia’s Lost Antebellum Homes and Plantations (Donning Company, 2012)
Many of these books are quite pricey. I’d imagine they are “coffee table books” put out for browsing. But the second one, which is what I rely 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)  Wikipedia: Plantations in Mississippi (List plus links!)

Besides being useful for writers researching a setting, these books whisk away the reader to places she’s never been and may never go. Writers need credibility--and all of us need to have our imaginations roused to greater heights!

Wednesday:  Colonial Homes

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