We had seen these gardens along Route 14 when we drove to Avery Island to visit the Tabasco Factory. Others told us that we shouldn't miss visiting this place during our stay in Abbeville, LA. And how right they were!
One of the first sights we encountered after paying our admission fee ($10/adults; $8/seniors) was this gorgeous peacock. They can be seen throughout the 25-acres of semi-tropical gardens. This handsome fellow kept turning around for us to admire is beautiful plumage!
Joseph Jefferson, an actor from Philadelphia (2/20/1829 - 4/28/1905), built a 22-room, winter home in this location, known as Jefferson Island, in 1870. Jefferson Island is one of five immovable columns of salt that can be found in this area of Louisiana that are several miles wide and 5 to 8 miles deep.
Jefferson's professional success was primarily due to the role he played of Rip Van Winkle in a production that was performed in Australia, the US, and Europe over a span of 40 years and 4,500 performances. While he had other minor roles, the Rip Van Winkle one was the key to his fame and financial success. He owned four homes in the US and spent 3 months in each. This mansion is on the only one still standing today.
Our first stop at Rip Van Winkles Gardens was the Joseph Jefferson Mansion. The house is filled with antique furniture, paintings, and other period pieces. Note the three cisterns (two above ground and the third, an underground brick structure) that were used to collect rainwater to supply the house.
This is the view from the front porch that has rocking chairs used while waiting for the tour (hourly) to begin. That's our friend from Germany, Renate, who we met at Betty's RV Park, and John in the photo below. And then another photo of me and John. Photography is not permitted in the mansion.
In 1917, the house was sold to the Bayless family. The furnishings in the house today were theirs. Is is the Bayless family that expanded the gardens and named them in remembrance of Joseph Jefferson.
The only heir of the Bayless family decided to build his "dream house" on the edge of Lake Peigneur that was completed in 1980. Nine months later a drilling rig pierced a giant salt cavern causing the lake to drain. The resulting whirlpool sucked in the drilling rig, other equipment, 65 acres of land, as well as the house. Only the chimney can be seen today. This closed forever the salt mining operation at Jefferson Island and closed the gardens for four years.
In 2003, the property was purchased by Live Oak Gardens who have built a bed and breakfast, the Jefferson Cafe, a conference center, and expanded the gardens.
Two cottages that can be rented were once the servants quarters for the mansion.
Lush ferns and many bamboo patches can be seen in the gardens.
This overlook on Lake Peigneur cannot be used due to concerns on structural damage to recent severe weather.
These flowers were just gorgeous.
The Japanese gardens were beautiful in this serene setting.
We had a lovely lunch at Care Jefferson outdoors overlooking beautiful Lake Peigneur. The peacocks were wandering around the tables looking for handouts.
Loved this fountain! The second photo is the courtyard outside of the gift shop.
When leaving the gardens, the rookery is located on the right. We parked along the road and walked over to the water's edge to get some photos of the beautiful waterfowl here (notably roseate spoonbills, and egrets).
What an interesting attraction in this part of the country. We enjoyed learning about the history of the area, the life of Joseph Jefferson, seeing the lovely mansion, and beautiful gardens. This place is a real treasure.