Renowned for its exuberantly designed house, the plantation is sited upon the Mississippi River approximately 40 miles northwest of New Orleans. It was established as a sugar plantation in 1827 by Edmond Bozonier Marmillion following local plantation tradition, with the main house facing the river and slave cabins and a sugar mill adjacent to the cane fields behind the house. The ornate, galleried “steamboat Gothic” house was constructed from 1850 to 1855, named for the French phrase “the shirt off his back.” Formal gardens once stretched between the house’s façade and the river.
The property was sold in 1879 and changed hands until 1909, when the Ory family established the San Francisco Planting & Manufacturing Company. In 1954, the property was opened to the public and the structure preserved. Twenty years later the house was restored by the San Francisco Plantation Foundation, which continues management today.
Although much has changed, the main house is still visually connected to the Mississippi River while a great number of historic live oaks still surround it. The Foundation has established a new garden behind the house and sited slave cabins and a one-room schoolhouse, dating to the 1830s and 1840s, to the east. The property has been greatly curtailed, from 1500 acres to roughly 6 acres. The front yard and gardens were eradicated between 1927 and 1932 by the construction of the River Road levee system, and the former plantation fields are now an industrial development. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.