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History Tuesday – Louisiana’s White Hall Plantation
November 22, 2022
History Tuesday at Old Houses Under $50K is for informational purposes only and focuses on beautiful homes that were built for less than $50,000 back in the day. They are usually not for sale, and if they were, they would certainly cost way more than $50K. Today we are featuring White Hall Plantation in Lettsworth, Louisiana.
Despite the peak of Southern decadence in the mid-1800s, White Hall Plantation was able to be built for far less than $50,000. The Greek Revival and Italianate style plantation house was designed by architect Henry Howard and commissioned and constructed by Elias Norwood between the years 1846 and 1849. Located in a hamlet on the east bank of the Atchafalaya River, the home served several notable residents over the decades before floods, snakes and neglect put the house close to demolition in 1975. White Hall had only a decade or so to serve her purpose before taking seven cannonballs in her side at the hands of Union ships.
Architect Henry Howard
Henry Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1818. It was here that Howard learned the architectural trade at his father’s architectural office. In 1836, he emigrated to the United States, joining his brother in New Orleans a year later. Howard is credited with designing over 280 buildings in Louisiana, including several plantation houses. He died in 1884.
Elias Norwood (1788-1848), a wealthy planter, built the home for his family, including his wife Catharine Chandler Norwood (1797-1875) and his children. Elias did not get to enjoy the home for very long as he passed away in as soon as it was completed, and it was passed down to his son, Captain Samuel J. Norwood. Three years later, the Captain sold the estate to Bennett Barton Simmes (1811-1888) — a steamboat captain, state senator, Confederate general, founder of nearby Simmesport and contributor to Louisiana’s Articles of Secession prior to the Civil War.
A decade later in 1863, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks (1816-1894), along with his army battalion, took over the Simmes’ home as headquarters. During that time, seven cannonballs riddled the side of the house at the hands of Union ships.
After the war ended, the plantation became the property of Citizens’ Bank of Louisiana until Captain Samuel Norwood’s son, Sam Norwood, bought it back in 1880. The property subsequently deteriorated, but the disrepair had much more to do with the river that flowed through the front yard, neglectful owners, wood warping, and unfortunate alterations than the war ravages.
The view from the front porch of White Hall Plantation today is quite different from the one Elias Norwood enjoyed due to the levee that currently exists across the road.
Both in 1912 and 1939, White Hall was moved back from the riverbank via mule power. A second-floor snake invasion occurred in 1921, and during the 1939 relocation, the seven Union cannonballs were removed from the home’s side.
Loads of spent bullets were plastered over during Sam Norwood’s time, but were removed in the beautiful 2013 restoration.