The sugarhouse at Rosalie Plantation is believed to have been built in the 1830's, like the house, but the date of origin is not known. The earliest known records of sugar production at Rosalie are from 1850 and show sugar produced through 1883. During that period the maximum production reported was in 1859, when 466 hogsheads of sugar were produced. Each hogshead may have contained about 1,000 pounds of sugar.
Archaeologist Joanne Ryan of Baton Rouge has examined the sugarhouse at Rosalie and offered opinions regarding the probable operations. She believes that the mill was originally designed to house a steam-operated crushing system, but that for the first few years a mule-powered system was used. It may be that it took several years for the machinery to be constructed and delivered. During this early period, there would have been one "train" of kettles and all of the operations of the sugar-making process would have been carried out in the single building which still stands. However, once the steam boiler and associated crusher were installed there would not have been room in the building for all operations. At that point the cooling and curing operations would have been moved out into another building or wing and a second train of kettles was added.
The fate of the machinery of the mill is not known. A single kettle remains out of the original eight or ten. The massive brickwork inside the mill, which would have housed the kettle trains and supported the grinders, has been removed. The mill then had a second life as a cattle barn for many years, with sheds added all around the outside walls. These sheds were removed in the 1960's.
The sugarhouse as it stands today is basically a shell, with brick walls sixteen inches thick supporting king-post trusses, sometimes called Norman trusses. These trusses are comprised of massive handhewn cypress beams forty feet in length, with saw-cut king posts and struts. An interesting anomaly is that the brick parapets at each end are not identical. The end facing the south has two different styles of parapets. The reason for this is not known.
In January 2013 the north wall of the sugarhouse fell during a period of high wind. The Norman family is attempting to stabilize the structure and rebuild this wall. For those who wish to contribute to the restoration of this structure, we invite you to make a tax-deductible donation to the Central LA Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) corporation and send to PO Box 66, Alexandria, LA 71309-0066. Please designate your contribution for the Rosalie Sugarhouse Fund. Further questions can be directed to Stephen Norman at (318) 729-3173. Or you can make a non-deductible contribution by clicking on the "Donate" button near the bottom of this page!
To follow the repair and restoration, go to https://www.facebook.com/RosalieSugarhouse and "Like" us!
Please note: For many years the sugarhouse has been a popular backdrop for couples taking engagement photographs. It should be noted that at present the building is potentially unstable and visitors are not allowed on the grounds. Once restoration has been accomplished such photography may be allowed once again. Please check with the office at Rosalie Pecans at (318) 448-3139 or Stephen Norman at (318) 729-3173.
- Stephen Norman, October 2015
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