Belle Grove Lives Again…Sort Of

a portion of Bell Gorve plantation house

Belle Grove Plantation (circa 1936; public domain)

There’s Something About Old Houses

I live in a newly developed area. The subdivisions are filled with thousands of homes based on maybe five exterior styles and maybe ten floor plans.  When I first moved down here, I drove up to the wrong house fairly regularly. They all looked exactly the same (and still do).

I’ve always loved old houses, but living here has given me a new appreciation for them. Old houses have character and presence newer homes just don’t have. One old house might have original stained glass windows. The next might have hand carved molding or unique tile work in the kitchen or bathroom.

Yes, the newer homes are more energy efficient and have fewer (expensive) age-related issues. But I still like old homes better. The uniqueness and the attention to detail simply can’t be matched. This might sound weird, but I sometimes think I can feel the history of a place speaking to me.

My Fascination with Belle Grove

The grandest of old homes are, of course, the plantation homes sprinkled throughout the South. I’ve toured quite a few in Louisiana. The juxtaposition of the plantation homes’ beauty and the horror of their role in history is both fascinating and repellant.

(Those who know me know I have a lurid interest in repellant things.)

One of the grandest plantation homes ever to exist was Belle Grove. Built in Iberville Parish, Louisiana between 1852-1857 for the cost of $80,000, it is said to be the largest mansion ever built in the South. Its seventy-five rooms were spread out over four floors.

front of Belle Grove

Even neglected and falling down, she’s impressive!

Belle Grove was abandoned in 1925 and burned in a mysterious fire in 1952. In its place now sits a neighborhood of modest homes, much like the one I currently live in (and sometimes mistake for other houses on other streets).

Belle Grove

( all pictures circa 1936, public domain)

Belle_Grove_Plantation_06 pub domain

 To learn more about the Belle Grove, check out its website or Facebook page. Click here to watch a really neat You Tube video featuring pictures of Belle Grove Plantation set to music.

The Connection to Black Opal

I first encountered Belle Grove in a book called Ghosts Along The MississippiLooking at the pictures awakened my imagination. That this beautiful place no longer existed made me sort of sad.

So, when I hired Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar to paint the cover of Black Opal, I asked her to include a plantation house based on Belle Grove. Here’s the cover art Kimberlee created:

 

BlackOpal_Ebook for BN
My series heroine, Peri Jean Mace, ends up stuck at the huge house on the cover after charging off to confront her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her. She ends up getting into more trouble than she ever imagined possible and discovering secrets she never wanted to know. But that’s the norm for Peri Jean.

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Subscribers to my newsletter can read a brand new, exclusive 14-page Peri Jean Mace short story titled “Peckerwood Bocephus.” This story takes place twelve years before the events in Forever Road and is the story of how Peri Jean got the tattoo on her arm.

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After you sign up, look for instructions on downloading “Peckerwood Bocephus” in the Final Welcome Email.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are there any fellow admirers of old houses out there? Which ones have you visited and which one was your favorite?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of Forever Road and Black Opal, of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

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16 thoughts on “Belle Grove Lives Again…Sort Of

  1. Kassandra Lamb

    Great post, Catie! I do love old houses. But as the owner of one, I can tell you they are expensive to maintain. And ours is only 60 years old. Can’t imagine what it would take to maintain a mansion like this. She sure was/is a beauty, though!

    Reply
    1. Catie Rhodes

      Thanks, Kathy! And, yes, it’s too bad it wasn’t preserved. Nottoway Plantation, also in Iberville Parish, is probably one of the largest remaining plantation homes in the area. It has 53,000 square feet and 64 rooms. But Belle Grove, perhaps because it is lost, captures my imagination more.

      Reply
  2. shannon esposito

    Four floors??? Wow! Would have loved to spend the night in that place. I bet it could tell some stories. It is sad that it wasn’t perserved. I wonder why no one took an interest in it besides greedy developers? Anyway, I imagine Peri Jean found herself in quite a dilemma in a house like that. Can’t wait to read about it!

    Reply
    1. Catie Rhodes

      Shannon, I once worked for a woman whose husband had grown up in New Orleans. According to him, the efforts to preserve historical landmarks did not really get rolling until the second half of the twentieth century. Belle Grove burned in 1953, so I’m guessing it just sort of fell through the cracks. My guess on the reason would be that nobody had the funds to preserve it at that time.

      If you ever want to visit a big, huge plantation in that area, try Nottoway. I was telling Kathy about it in another comment. At 53,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest (if not THE largest) in the area.

      Reply
  3. Juli Page Morgan

    I love old houses, too! It just kills me when one is torn down, and all that beauty and history is lost. One of my favorite old houses is the James Lee House in Memphis, Tennessee’s Victorian Village. This grand old house sat abandoned for years and was slated for demolition. Luckily, it’s been bought, and the new owners are restoring it, and will turn it into a luxury B & B. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lee_House

    Reply
  4. Nancy Wood

    Congrats on your new book Catie — wow, what an amazing building. A shame it’s no longer here, but I’m looking forward to reading Black Opal to “see” it again.
    Best,
    Nancy

    Reply

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