Ashland-Belle Helene plantation house, an example of Classical Revival
Courtesy of the Capital Resource
Conservation and Development Council
view of historic site
Duncan F. Kenner (1813-1887) built
Ashland for his wife, Anne Guillemine Nanine Bringier, a member of an
old and influential French family of Louisiana. Ashland-Belle Helene is
representative of the massiveness, simplicity, and dignity which are generally
held to epitomize the Classical Revival style of architecture. Free of
service attachments and with a loggia on all four facades, it is a more
complete classical statement than the vast majority of Louisiana plantation
houses. With its broad spread of eight giant pillars across each facade
and its heavy entablature, Ashland-Belle Helene is among the grandest
and largest plantation houses ever built in the state. Ashland-Belle Helene
is also important for its association with Duncan F. Kenner, a sugar planter,
horse breeder, lawyer and political figure during the antebellum period.
The walls of Ashland (as the Kenner plantation was then known) were adorned
with paintings of horses, and the grounds included a racetrack. Kenner
himself was a keen advocate of scientific methods of farming and experimented
with innovations in the sugar production industry. Kenner is said to have
been the first in the state to use the portable railroad to carry cane
from fields to mill.
In addition to serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives, and
as a member of the Confederate Congress, Kenner was appointed in 1865
as minister plenipotentiary by President of the Confederacy, Jefferson
Davis, to gain the support of England and France for the Confederacy.
When Kenner returned to Ashland at the end of the Civil War, he found
his plantation in ruins and his slaves freed, the place having been
raided by Union troops in 1862. At the age of 52 he had to start over
again, but by persistence and great business skill, and by re-employing
as laborers the slaves that had been freed, he built up an estate. When
Duncan Kenner died, his plantation was even larger and more valuable
than it had been before the war. In 1889, Ashland was purchased by John
B. Reuss, a German immigrant who became a prosperous sugar planter.
Reuss re-named the plantation "Belle Helene" in honor of his granddaughter,
Ashland Plantation is set approximately 1500 ft. from the Mississippi
River, just off State Hwy. 75, north of Darrow. Ashland is not open
to the public.