Construction of Nottoway began in 1857 and was completed
in 1859 at an estimated cost of $80,000. When finished,
Nottoway had 64 rooms on 3 floors, 6 interior
staircases, 3 modern bathrooms, 22 massive 3-story high
columns, 165 doors and 200 windows. Befitting the Greek
Revival and Italianate style designed by Henry Howard,
the mansion featured soaring 15˝-foot ceilings and
massive 11-foot tall doors.
Nottoway’s incredible 53,000
square feet included a grand entrance hall, a formal
dining room, a ballroom, a gentlemen’s study and
library, music room, front parlor, master bedroom,
girls’ bedrooms, Ancestral Hall, sitting rooms,
breakfast room, wine room, dairy, laundry, servant
rooms, a bowling alley, and the boys’ wing. Its most
unique room was and still is the exquisite semi-circular
all-white ballroom, with beautiful Corinthian columns
and elegant archways adorned by elaborate hand-molded
designs. The kitchen was located in a separate building,
adjacent to the house, so that in the event of a fire,
the home would not be destroyed. Since the bottom floor
was susceptible to flooding from the Mississippi River,
it was not as detailed as the rest of the home; however,
it did include a bowling alley for the Randolph children
as well as a wine room.
Among the most beautiful aspects of the Randolphs’
castle was the extraordinary plaster frieze work
throughout the house. The frieze plaster, of which
enormous quantities were used, was made using a
combination of mud, clay, horsehair and Spanish moss.
4,200 yards of it were used for plastering the walls,
with more than 1,500 feet required for the elaborate
cornice designs, and 140 feet more for the scroll
ornaments in the parlors. The ornamental frieze work was
done by Jeremiah Supple, a young, talented Irishman, who
lined the seams of the ceilings with meticulously
hand-carved moldings, creating a different design for
each room. He also made all eight of Nottoway’s ornate
Besides the massive home, Nottoway Plantation included
some 1,900 acres of prime farmland, 5,636 acres of
swamp, a variety of other buildings including slave
quarters, a schoolhouse, greenhouse, stable,
steam-powered sugar house, copper-lined wooden water
cisterns, and other necessary buildings essential to an
A Few of the Mansion's
hand-carved, imported Italian marble coal
fireplaces. Most plantations at the time, unable
to afford authentic European marble, had
surfaces painted “faux marble”, hoping they
would look genuine. Also, coal-burning
fireplaces were a very forward-thinking feature
that saved on both room space and firewood.
modern bathrooms (one on each floor), with
flushing toilets, and hot and cold running
water, all unheard of at that time.
lighting throughout the home, produced by an
on-property gas plant, again, very unique at the
Closets instead of traditional chiffarobes
(similar to a large armoire). Homes at that time
were not built with closets because they were
taxed as additional rooms.
Exquisite, detailed plaster frieze work moldings
throughout the home
doors and 200 windows - one opening for each day
of the year!
15˝-foot ceilings, 11-foot doors and 6 interior
Brass and baccarat crystal chandeliers.
Hand-painted German Dresden porcelain doorknobs
and matching keyhole covers.
bowling alley on the ground floor for the
Honduran mahogany banisters lining stairways
carpeted with green velvet.
Cast-iron ornamental railings, custom-made in
enormous matching set of curved granite front
concrete ground floor with 14-inch thick brick
While many planters balked at
progressive ideas or new agricultural machinery, John
Randolph not only enthusiastically embraced the use of
leading-edge technology in his business, he also brought
his passion for it into his home.
Among the innovative features
that Randolph incorporated at Nottoway were modern
bathrooms, indoor hot and cold running water, gas
lighting, and an advanced servant call-bell system.
Nottoway was the first home in Louisiana to have a
bathroom on more than the main floor; in fact, there
were three bathrooms, one on each floor, and all had
flushing toilets and running water, a rarity at the
Gas lighting was also very uncommon in 1859, especially
in rural locations, so Randolph had a small gas plant
built on the grounds to produce the gas used for the
lighting throughout the mansion.
And while servant call bells weren't new when Nottoway
was built, the system installed by John Randolph was
innovative in its complexity and expansiveness.