Reliving the Past at Lakeport Plantation
Kimberly J. Williams, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Located at the southern end of Arkansas’s Great River Road National Scenic Byway, it stands in the middle of a cotton field – the majestic two-story house that has stood the test of time. It is Lakeport Plantation, one of Arkansas’s foremost historic house sites. After being donated to Arkansas State University in 2001 by the Sam Epstein Angel family, the house has been researched and carefully restored as a museum focusing on the people and the cultures that shaped life in the Mississippi River Delta. On Sept. 28, the official grand opening for the significant structure will be held in Lake Village, allowing the house to tell its story to future generations. Although work is not yet complete on Lakeport Plantation, according to Project Director Dr. Ruth Hawkins, “the restoration has reached a stage whereby the house can be shared with the public as remaining work proceeds.”
Built for Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson in 1859, the Greek Revival dwelling was home to the Johnson family until 1927. Johnson, who hailed from a prominent Kentucky family, became one of the largest cotton planters in Arkansas. Lakeport Plantation became a testament to his affluence. By the beginning of the Civil War, Johnson’s holdings numbered more than 4,000 acres of fertile Delta soil. After the war, Johnson began rebuilding his agricultural empire, aided by many who had been his former slaves.
The restoration totals nearly $6 million from grants provided by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Save America’s Treasures and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Lakeport Plantation will give visitors the opportunity to experience life on a plantation – not only from the viewpoint of the plantation owner but also from the enslaved laborers who helped build the plantation and made it thrive. The soil at Lakeport Plantation has produced cotton since the 1830s. Planned exhibits will give visitors an understanding of the Delta agricultural experience, ranging from plantation slavery to sharecropping to agricultural mechanization and modern farming methods. "Eventually the house will feature exhibits in each room," Hawkins said. "These will focus on the lives of those who lived and worked at the Lakeport Plantation over the years, as well as the craftsmanship that went into the house and the preservation techniques utilized in saving it."
Lakeport Plantation will operate as an educational center, a museum and a resource for preservation professionals. Programming will include individualized school tours developed in line with curriculum frameworks, as well as in-service and professional training for area elementary and secondary teachers.
Lakeport Plantation is located off U.S. 82 on Ark. 142 near Lake Village. For more information on the historic Lakeport Plantation or to plan a visit, visit their Web site at http://lakeport.astate.edu or phone 870-265-6031.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
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