This is not "Twelve Oaks", but an actual plantation owner's house that was once the center of a 2500 acre rice plantation with hundreds of slaves, producing the finest rice in the ante-bellum South. It remained in the family until the last daughter died in 1973, who provided for its preservation in her will. The furnishings are all original to the plantation family and span more than 150 years. After rice could no longer be raised profitably, the family turned to dairy cows and provided milk to area homes until 1942, when even that became unprofitable. But they kept the land and buildings in good shape, and we can now see things from each time period side by side--both the original rice planter's home and his later descendants' dairy buildings, both a typical slave quarters building for 2 families and a later "pay shed" from which post-Civil War workers were given their wages, both the unfinished wood floors typical of a seasonal home and 18th c. Duncan Phyfe furniture later brought from the family's Savannah home after the Civil War loss of their fortune. After buying your ticket and watching a brief background film at the Visitors' Center, you approach the house and out-buildings by walking through a grove of live oaks, many of which are hundreds of years old. Rice fields, in neat rectangles separated by earth dikes, can still be see in many places, and the landscape and its buildings are a living memorial to the hundreds of African slaves who re-shaped the landscape for agriculture and lived and died here, the generations of a former slave-holding family who made it their full- time home and worked tirelessly to make the land productive in new ways after the War, and the natural world of live oaks and marshland that survived it all and lends nobility to the site. The key to the experience, though, is the staff who sell tickets, run the orientation film, oversee the gift shop, and guide the house tours. We especially liked "Ranger Andy". He spent an hour with 6-8 of us, taking us into each room and telling us how it was used over the years by the family, pointing out curiosities in the furnishings that we would not have observed--low-backed chairs that allowed a hoop skirt to go over, so a lady so encumbered could sit in a parlor, special fish-shaped dishes to receive fish bones during a formal meal, rattan loungers for keeping cool on a hot day--and explaining why trundle beds were pulled out from the foot of the bed, rather than the side, why people had both day- and night-beds, how people lived without indoor plumbing, and more. He told the story of the house, its people, and Coastal Georgia with a deep respect, affection, and pride, and with such a gentle good humor that we were sorry to leave.
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