Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thanksgiving, Thusday 27 November, 2014

We are docked in front of Nottoway Plantation, the most magnificent remaining antebellum mansion. Believe it or not, now owned by an Australian, Paul Ramsey! Nottoway was built by John Hampden Randolph in the mid 1850's for his wife and 11 children. When he married his wife, her dowery was $22,000 and 25 slaves ($250,000) in today's money! He used this money to buy further properties for cotton.
This place was stunning and so much ahead of its time. It took 6 years in the planning, cutting down the cypress trees from their other property, curing the timber and soaking it in water to curve it and making all the bricks on site. It was designed in Greek Revival and Italianate style.
The ceilings are 15 feet and doors 11 feet tall. There are 64 rooms in this mansion including 165 doors and 200 windows!
In the entry the handmade moldings all had significances: the very top portrayed hands praying to show that the family was a religious one, the eggs meant life, the arrows death.
This house had three things that were not in any other house at the time: flush toilets, hot and cold running water and gas lights. Randolph had one of his slaves make the gas from the waste of the sugar cane (bagasse), water and calcium carbide. The chandeliers were Baccarat Chrystal!
And hand painted porcelain doorknobs
The dining room table sat 16 and had beautiful China.

The white room was as it names implies all white. Randolph wanted it this way so it would show off the colours and lavishness of the women's gowns.
It even had a mirror that was curved so the parents could see their children in any corner of the room without making it obvious that they were keeping an eye on their behaviour!
At the age of 13, the boys had to move into another part of the house that was still connected but more remote so that the boy's friends would not be able to associate with the girls of the house.
It was rude in those days to even speak about ankles! They were called limbs and were not to be seen. They even had a mirror in the entry for the girls to check the length of their dress to make sure that their ankles did not show. As this view was so forbidden, boys had to walk up the right set of entry stairs while the girls walked up the left so the boys would not see the girls ankles as they walked up the stairs!
The ladies parkour was on one side of the entry 

and the men's on the other. No female was allowed in the men's room, not even to clean!

During this era, to "brag" unobtrusively that you paid off your house, a hole was drilled in the stair bannister and the deeds to the house put in then sealed with a porcelain knob! As Randolph had paid $80,000 cash (in 1959) upon the completion of his house, he did not "brag" but certainly the size of the house showed everyone that he had money. He had started in cotton but then realized that the future was in sugar cane. After changing over, he tripled his money. During the civil war, he could not do anything as the Union had stopped all the river traffic and had stolen their cattle and horses, so he took his slaves and all his valuables, left his wife in charge of the house and went to Texas to continue growing sugar cane.
The home is now a resort after Ramsey invested $14million to refurbish the entire plantation. You can stay, eat or book rooms for functions and weddings!

1 comment: