Rich Dead People! Hoorah!

New Orleans Travel Blog

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The corner mansion

One of the big draws of New Orleans, for me at least, is the artifice of rich dead white people. The pillared  mansions under tall oaks draped with weeping Spanish moss, the melodramatic cemetaries, the history of pirates, Southern romance and semi-tropical death -- there's a special chemistry in meeting of grandiose wealth and Yellow Fever, really.

Metairie Cemetery

 

Metairie is a New Orleans suburb, and at first glance from the freeway, it appears to be an area that that houses more dead people than alive. There's several cemetaries right next to each other, so the rows mausoleums seem to stretch on for ages. Metairie Cemetery is home to some of the most ostencatious and grand mausoleums, built to resemble castles, cathedrals and mansions.

 

Metairie, dating back to the 1870's, isn't the oldest cemetery in the area, but it's perhaps the most decadent.

Bury me with pearls and red roses
These mausoleums have statues, stained glass, front yards -- the works. The cemetary has its own street names to mark the lanes of graves, so at times it really feels like you're walking in a tiny neighbourhood for rich people. There's even "condos" for people for want a plot but can't afford a mausoleum. I kept thinking, if this was New York City, one rich dude's mausoleum could be housing a two whole families of immigrants.

 

For anyone that doesn't know, cemetaries in New Orleans are different because the city is so low to the water. Early settlers couldn't dig graves very deep, because they'd hit water after a few feet. Coffins wouldn't even stay buried after storms, so the solution was to build vault style burial places above ground. Rich people took this a step further by building decadent mausoleums to house their loved ones.

 

Some of the older mausoleums house whole families, generations of rich dead white people in the same tiny little cement house. You kinda look at it and wonder how they all fit.

Well, what happens is they actually take Grandma out of her coffin, stuff her in a sack, and move her to the back of the mausoleum when someone new dies. And everyone jut keeps getting piled up like that. Creepy, huh?

 

Metairie cemetary is also home to interesting Civil War monuments, as several confederate battalions have group burial sites and monuments there.

 

Oak Alley Plantation

  

Our next stop on the Old Dead White People tour was Oak Alley Plantation, possibly the most recognizable plantation house, with its gorgeous row of old growth oaks leading all the way up from the road to the front of the house.

Oak Alley

 

I love oak trees. There's so incredibly majestic and climbable at the same time. Having grown up in Northern California, I think redwoods are nice but kinda mundane. Thanks to rampant Sudden Oak Death on the California coast, oaks are a lot more rare where in my area, and I get really excited when I see big tall oak trees, with their strong, twisting branches just begging to be climbed. Sudden Oak Death sucks. Remember this big fella in Hendy Woods? He looked so lonely with all his friends dead.

 

Anyway, oaks are alive and well in Louisiana, and the 300 year old grove in front of Oak Alley Plantation are some of the prettiest I've seen.

Oak Alley
The plantation house was owned by a rich (now dead) white couple named the Romans, who have a very romantic and tragic story that you can hear about on the tour that is given every half hour by a girl in period costume. There's also a restaurant, a big gift shop, and apparently a theater for plays.

 

Oak Alley's definitely worth a visit, but go in the morning. When we first drove past, the lane of oaks was so gorgeous and sweeping, leading right up to the big white house. By the time we had finished with lunch and the tour, all the tour buses and tour boats had come up from New Orleans, and you could barely get a picture without throngs of retirees walking ever so slowly in front of the house.

thenewextrememimi says:
Cemetaries at night would be awesome with friends on Friday the 13th or something, but alas I was on this trip with my Mama. Plus, they specifically tell you not to go at night, because there's muggings. Don't know how true that is, but I wasnt gonna find out :).
Posted on: Dec 03, 2007
stabber911 says:
Interesting place to visit. Shouldnt it have some night pic as well?
Posted on: Dec 03, 2007
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The corner mansion
The corner mansion
Bury me with pearls and red roses
Bury me with pearls and red roses
Oak Alley
Oak Alley
Oak Alley
Oak Alley
mausoleums, Metairie Cemetery
mausoleums, Metairie Cemetery
A castle. Really.
A castle. Really.
Normal graves
Normal graves
metairie cemetary
metairie cemetary
Metairie Cemetery
Metairie Cemetery
Metairie Cemetery
Metairie Cemetery
Confederate monuments
Confederate monuments
creepy statue inside a mausoleum w…
creepy statue inside a mausoleum …
Greenwood Cemetary
Greenwood Cemetary
kitty at Oak Alley
kitty at Oak Alley
Oak Alley
Oak Alley
Oak roots!
Oak roots!
Oak Alley
Oak Alley
So climbable
So climbable
New Orleans Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
With its dramatic double row of old growth oak, Oak Alley's a great plantation to visit. The restaurant is a bit tourist trappy, though. The prices ar… read entire review