A Thriving Manor
Just when it seemed as though Oaklawn, yet again, might
fall victim to desperate circumstances, a new savior stepped
In 1985, M.J. " Mike" Foster Jr. surprised his wife,
Alice, with the keys to what would become their new most
beloved home just outside Franklin, Louisiana, Foster's
Oaklawn Manor, with its 35 sprawling acres of oak-filled
terrain, was home at first sight for the soon-to-be state
senator (and, years later, Louisiana governor) and his wife.
Complete with many of its original furnishings, the
plantation was well-preserved.
The new owners, while maintaining the charm and elegance
of the bygone eras contained within the walls, added a
personal touch to Oaklawn by placing family portraits,
antiques and favorite artwork in practically every room.
The governor takes special pride in his
wildlife collection. The Audubon room displays the
governor's entire collection of Gould, Audubon and Selby
The petit salon, located to the right of
the Audubon room, contains an impressive collection of
wooden duck decoys hand carved by Houma native Don Gomex,
who, himself, is commonly referred to as the "modern
Audubon." It took Gomez nearly a decade to carve the
life-like decoys, which represent all the birds indigenous
to Louisiana. A carved replica of two owls perch on a
case by the doorway, guarding the entrance to the room.
At a quick glance, a visitor could easily mistaken the
carving for the real thing but a closer look reveals the
incredible artistry that captures every intricate detail.
When Foster was first elected to the state
senate in 1987, he and Alice had been living at Oaklawn for
barely a year. There, family and friends gathered to
celebrate his victory.
Having entered the political arena, Foster
was not content with one victory. Less than a decade
later, Oaklawn served as both a home and haven for Foster
during his gubernatorial race.
Following his victory in the gubernatorial
race, Governor and Alice Foster still chose to spend as much
time as possible at Oaklawn, dividing their time between
their beloved home and the Governor's Mansion in Baton
With the advent of current technology,
Governor Foster is able to communicate via facsimile and
telephones whenever necessary, allowing him to spend an
average of three days a week at Oaklawn when the legislature
is not in session.
Other amenities were added following the
election. An existing sea plane ramp was converted
from its original state to a helicopter landing pad,
allowing Governor Foster to travel to and from Baton Rouge
The Fosters enjoy spending quite times
alone in their den, which is furnished with comfortable
couches, a large fireplace and a television set. They
both enjoy fishing in Grand Isle and occasionally take their
fishing boat out together. Governor Foster also takes
time to go duck hunting at his camp in Pecan Island.
Oaklawn's welcoming presence greets an
average of twenty-some visitors each day. The antique,
wrought iron gates remain open, leading guests past the
24-hour guard house down the path past the main house.
Although the governor cherishes his
privacy, he and Alice agree that the beauty of Oaklawn
deserves to be seen and enjoyed by the public. "After
all," says Governor Foster, "it isn't any fun to own
anything if you can't share it."
Shortly after moving to Oaklawn, the
governor discovered the back gates among a pile of rubbish
that had been discarded. He quickly removed the gates
from the pile and, after cleaning them off, returned them to
their original assignment around the grounds of the manor.
Their addition echoes the original days of Oaklawn, when
they stood protecting and adorning the property.
Although there is increased security on
the property since Foster's election, the governor is often
found relaxing and welcoming tourists to his plantation
He enjoys talking with visitors from all
over the world and sharing the beauty and quietude of his
antebellum home. During the holidays, Alice Foster
delights visitors with her festive decoration of the home.
Every Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving at Oaklawn marks a
special time for the Foster family and each room of the
plantation shimmers with ornate detail, capturing a sense of
style and celebration for all to share.
The Fosters brought with them several
family antiques and gifts that the governor and Alice had
given to one another.
The governor's mother, Olive Foster, was
an avid collector of Oriental art. One of the most
stunning pieces is a small jade Buddha, dating to the 12th
Century, that stands between two carved Bonsai trees in the
drawing room to the right of the main entrance.
In the same room, in the far right corner,
stands a baby grand player piano that was a recent Christmas
gift from Governor Foster to his beloved Alice. The
piano, which resembles an old Steinway, surprises guests
with its computer disk-operated playing capacity. The
renowned pianist Ronnie Role recorded several favorite
melodies especially for the Fosters' private collection
during a Christmas party hosted at the plantation.
According to Governor Foster, one of his
most meaningful and treasured additions is the portrait of
his great-grandmother, Ida Victoria Hill Goodwill, that he
inherited from his mother's estate
He recounts his close relationship with
Ida Goodwill among his fondest memories. Another piece
in which the governor takes special pride is the antique
desk he inherited from his paternal family which had
previously belonged to his grandfather, Murphy J. Foster,
who had been governor of Louisiana at the turn of the