The last remaining antebellum house on Arkansas’ stretch of the Mississippi, the 1850 Lakeport Plantation, has been restored to help study and demonstrate the South’s transition from slavery to tenant farming.
Lakeport Plantation has been in continuous cotton production since being hewn from the heavily forested, 1830’s Arkansas frontier. Initially farmed by slaves, the plantation has survived the change from frontier to plantation slavery, through sharecropping and tenant farming, to large-scale corporate farming. As such, it is the perfect living document of agricultural, social, and cultural change in the region and, to some degree, throughout the US.
Lakeport Plantation was established in 1831 by Kentuckian Joel Johnson and the plantation was passed down to his son, Lycurgus Johnson, in 1846. The soaring cotton market in 1856 provided well for southern plantation holders like Johnson, who built the large plantation house of Lakeport in 1859 and, by 1860, owned 155 slaves and well over 4,000 acres of land.
Of course, the Civil War was just around the corner and, though times were very hard, Lakeport Plantation was luckier than many and come 1870, was still around to be a major agricultural enterprise – the largest in the county, in fact – though now in need of a new way of doing things.
Succeeding generation of Johnsons – and then Epsteins – managed the plantation until it was placed on the National Historic Register in 1974. In 2002 the property was designated an official project of the Save Americaâ€™s Treasures program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service.
The Lakeport Plantation house is 8,000 square feet and has 17 rooms, with ten rooms on the main floor, including two parlors and the kitchen. An excellent example of classic Greek Revival architecture, it is a beautiful home with the traditional columns and a two-story portico.
Guided tours of Lakeport Plantation are a real experience and the plantation serves not only as a museum but also as a base for genealogy and heritage projects in an attempt to preserve the history of the former planters and slaves that lived out their lives on the plantation.
The Lakeport Plantation
601 Hwy 142, Lake Village, AR 71653
For more information, please visit: lakeport.astate.edu
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