UT Professor Honored for Book on Plantations

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee geography professor has been honored for his book documenting the disappearance of the traditional Louisiana sugar plantation.

Dr. John Rehder received the Abbott Lowell Cummings Award for his book, “Delta Sugar: Louisiana’s Vanishing Plantation Landscape,” published by Johns Hopkins press in 1999. The Vernacular Architecture Forum gives the Cummings award for the best book in the field of North American vernacular architecture studies.

The award, established in 1982, is given to “the publication deemed . . . to have made the most significant contribution to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes in North America,” said Gabrielle Lanier, chair of the awards committee. “The field of nominees was very strong this year.”

Rehder found that the traditional sugar plantation has been erased from the Louisiana landscape it once dominated, a victim of a new management model and changing economic conditions. Between 1969 and 1993, the number of plantations dropped from 1,687 to 690, and sugar mills fell from 44 to 19, he said.

Rehder, whose doctoral dissertation at Louisiana State University was on the landscape of the state’s sugar-producing regions, revisited the plantations he had studied as a graduate student in the 1960s.

He said he found that only one of the six plantations he had analyzed in depth remained intact. Three others were in ruins and two had disappeared completely.

“Archaeologists were digging sites that I had analyzed as intact plantations just 20 years before,” he said.