For more than a century and a half, sugar was king in South Louisiana, enticing pioneers to the region and rewarding them with prosperity and progress. Southdown is located in the city of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, where 86 sugar mills operated during the industry’s boom years. The last operational mill in the Parish was the Southdown Mill, located adjacent to Southdown Plantation House. It closed in 1979 and was dismantled and shipped to Guatemala where it was reassembled for continued operation.
Southdown Plantation House is a lasting tribute to the sugar industry which helped to nurture Terrebonne Parish from its infancy to its present population of over 100,000 residents. Four generations of the Minor Family, along with hundreds of mill workers, fieldworkers, and their families, lived and labored at Southdown Plantation. The Minor Family occupied Southdown House until 1936. Over the years, the plantation owners, managers, and workers helped launch the local sugar industry, sustained it through difficult years, witnessed the cultural enrichment and progress of its boom times, and revitalized the industry from near-fatal crop disease.
Plantation life and the sugar industry are just two of the many topics explored by the exhibits of Southdown Plantation House/The Terrebonne Museum. In addition to the museum displays, the House itself, through its architecture and design, reveals information about life in South Louisiana. The house is 85 ft. wide by 65 ft. deep by 50 ft. high, with 12- and 14-foot ceilings and porches on all sides to cope with the hot weather. The walls are 12-inches thick, made of bricks hand-fired on the property. The floors are a mixture of locally available red cypress and pine. The Favrile stained glass panels, added in 1893, depict the plantation surroundings with motifs of palmetto leaves, magnolia branches, and sugar cane stalks. The current pink and green color scheme was selected by THACS to reproduce the paint colors of 1893, as discovered by expert paint analysis during the restoration.
HISTORY OF SOUTHDOWN PLANTATION
- 1790 & 1798: First owners receive Spanish landgrants.
- 1821-1828: Jim and Rezin Bowie buy the property and establish an indigo plantation.
- 1828: William J. Minor and James Dinsmore purchase the 1200 arpents (approx. 1020 acres) to establish Southdown Plantation.
- 1831: Principle crop changes to sugarcane. First sugar mill built in 1846.
- 1847: W. Minor becomes the sole owner of Southdown Plantation. His descendents continue to own and manage Southdown until 1932.
- 1859: W. Minor builds Southdown Plantation House as a one-story Greek Revival house.
- 1893: William’s son, Henry, adds the second floor and details of Victorian architecture.
- 1920’s: The plantation administration is instrumental in helping the sugar industry by propagating a sugarcane variety resistant to mosaic disease.
- 1932-1975: Ownership shifts from the Minor Family and the plantation becomes the property of a large sugar corporation. The Minor Family descendents move out of Southdown House in 1936. In connection with mill operations, the House continues to be occupied by corporate employees.
- 1972: The Terrebonne Historical & Cultural Society is formed.
- 1974: Southdown Plantation House is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
- 1975: Valhi, Inc. donates 4.46 acres of land, Southdown Plantation House, and the Servants’ Quarter Building to the Terrebonne Historical & Cultural Society.
- 1982: The Terrebonne Historical & Cultural Society opens the site as Southdown Plantation House/The Terrebonne Museum.
- 1993: The Servants’ Quarter Building is restored and opened as the gift shop and office.
- 1999: A circa 1885 cabin from Hollywood Plantation is donated and moved to the grounds of Southdown.
- Today: You plan your trip to Southdown Plantation and Museum to learn more about our history and culture and to experience the fascinating people and places of Terrebonne for yourself.