Houmas House gardens, Baton Rouge
The Grand Fancy Dress Anniversary Ball was one of the first big events held in Louisiana’s Old State Capitol building. The castle-like building carved out a grand convening spot along the Mississippi River for government officials in the 1850s. Ascending the 32-step cast-iron spiral staircase, your delegates will undoubtedly imagine the governors, legislators and high-society women in their hoop skirts and ball gowns who swept lazily up and down the stairs. Soaring high above, a 2,000-pane stained-glass rotunda with an umbrella-shaped dome squeezes out shafts of light onto wood beams and black and white marble flooring with a kaleidoscopic effect. The Gothic-inspired space seems made for cocktails, socializing, meet and greets or events which require a dramatic grand entrance.
“The building itself is our greatest artifact,” Jan Sumrall, the property’s business manager remarks, adding that political fund raisers, corporate meetings and presentations have all been held in the House and Senate chambers.
The chambers offer planners the striking ambiance of hardwood flooring, lofty ceilings and floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows—the House, with its tiered, 200-seat auditorium and the flexibly designed Senate, a multifaceted space for reception-style events for up to 180 people.
Throughout the years, the Old State Capitol building has survived fire, war, scandal and the occasional brawl. Question is: Will your groups survive the building?
A new 4D experience places groups face to face with the ghost of Sarah Morgan, an authentic Civil War-era figure who narrates a vivid 12-minute journey through the building’s tumultuous past. The “Ghost of the Castle” experience includes floating, lifelike images and special effects that surround the audience. Sumrall says the presentation really builds interest in a subject that may otherwise seem lackluster. “It’s kind of like you’re getting a history lesson, but you don’t realize it during the show.”
Just a 30-minute drive from Baton Rouge along the big bend of the Mississippi River, the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens continues this theme of “haunting” beauty. The historic mansion has been backdrop to numerous movies and TV shows, hosting fan favs such as Bette Davis, Cicely Tyson and soap diva Susan Lucci. Still, what’s often most talked about at the end of the day on this historic site are the “sightings.” No spoilers—you’ll just have to experience this one.
Meticulously preserved grounds, seven knockout venues, local cuisines, antique furnishings and artwork and over 38 acres of wispy and winding gardens give nod to the plantation’s antebellum days. Owner Kevin Kelly has made it easy to step into the shoes of the plantation’s early Sugar Barons through immersive tours and dinners and property-wide buyout options.
The property’s popularity and proximity to Baton Rouge has sparked the development of 11 new cottages, which will elevate the room count from 20 to 49. A life-size replica of the promenade deck and pilot house deck of a grand Steamboat will also settle in soon. Larger groups can bunk in some of the 8,000 hotel rooms up for grabs in Baton Rouge.