Guest Post from P. Allen Smith: Marlsgate Plantation

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Hello Tobi’s readers! It’s wonderful to be back with you. Today I want to tell you about one of my favorite destinations, located just fourteen miles southeast of the city of Little Rock — Marlsgate Plantation.

Marlsgate is a stately Greek Revival Mansion shaded by ancient oaks and a pecan grove overlooking the waters of Bearskin Lake.

Home to David Paul Garner, Jr. and his predecessors, Marlsgate Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’m proud that I was invited to design the landscape for this grand manor.

Marlsgate’s fine exterior detail begins with Doric columns over forty feet tall and continues inside with original beveled glass windows, sliding oak doors, handcrafted woodwork, Carrera marble fireplaces, and sculpted metal ceilings throughout the house. White oak floors were installed over an inch thick layer of horsehair insulation making the floorboards very quiet.

Just the primer on the collections within this one dining room had my head spinning with wonder over the rich Southern history assembled in this single space!

This amazing centerpiece rests atop a long center spine of antique mirrored sterling silver plateaus. Layering of epernes, compotes and cakestands support the tall vertical floral arrangement nearly touching the spectacular crystal chandelier hovering over the table that seats 24.

When the candelabras below are also lit, the light reflects all around the room bouncing off the ceiling and the remarkable trumeau mirrors on the walls. So magical!

From a first course gumbo to a Royal Crown Derby service dessert plate this table is set for long hours of entertainment spent talking and socializing over dinner. Remember – there was no cable television back in the 1800’s, so dinner was their HBO.

An amazing custom service for 36 of Old Paris porcelain china by the noted French ceramic artist Jacob Petit are all marked with his J.P. initials in the underglaze. All of the plate designs have rich florals with either a bird or an insect hand-painted on them.

One of Mr. Garner’s favorite pieces is an Old Paris bisque wine jug with scenes depicting Bacchus in bas-relief. It was once gilded in gold; however, over time and with heavy use, the majority of the gold has rubbed off.

As luck would have it, Mr. Garner was fortunate enough to find over 40 of these sweet meat plates or nut dishes with his monogram “DG” on all of them.

A wonderful coquille salt cellar with its exquisite sterling silver salt spoon is very valuable and would have been placed in front of the host. Large cat-and-monkey-themed salt cellars from this time period are very collectible.

The contents of the Royal Crown Derby petit fours stand would have been consumed after a pot de crème course, but before the final fruit service of the full-course dinner party.

Mr. Garner is renowned for his professional expertise as an artist, floral designer and social caterer, frequently utilizing Marlsgate as a splendid setting for luncheons, formal dinners, receptions, weddings and social functions attended by thousands of guests annually. To learn more, visit their website

Thanks for having me today, Tobi! I hope you all enjoyed this bit of Arkansas history.

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4 Responses to Guest Post from P. Allen Smith: Marlsgate Plantation

  1. Franki Parde says:

    This just “stirs my soul!” Honestly, “everything” has gotten “so casual” it sometimes amazes me. How many of “those” events does one remember…but… an evening at Marlsgate… Divine reading. Thanks. franki

  2. Tann Gattis says:

    My husband and I got married there in Feb. 1989. It was snowing!!! Beautiful memories!

  3. Beautiful setting, i love the dinnerware and all the designs on those items, it makes dinner a real luxurious family time!

  4. NR Designs says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed P. Allen Smiths description of the china dining pieces at Marlsgate Plantation! I would love to see this plantation in person someday.