Destrehan Plantation

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Destrehan Plantation
Destrehan Manor House
Destrehan Plantation is located in Louisiana
Destrehan Plantation
Location 13034 River Road, Destrehan, Louisiana
Coordinates 29°56′43″N 90°21′55″W / 29.94528°N 90.36528°W / 29.94528; -90.36528Coordinates: 29°56′43″N 90°21′55″W / 29.94528°N 90.36528°W / 29.94528; -90.36528
Built 1787–1790
Architect Charles Paquet
Architectural style Colonial, Greek Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 73002132[1]
Added to NRHP March 20, 1973

Destrehan Plantation is an antebellum Greek Revival house located near Destrehan, in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. The plantation was a major source of indigo and later sugarcane production. The home is most associated with Jean-Noël Destréhan, first United States senator from Louisiana and influential in the transition of the territory to United States statehood.

The house is a unique example of a plantation home outliving the oil refinery that had been built around it. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural quality and association with important people and events in Louisiana history.

History[edit]

Robert Antoine Robin de Logny ( -1792)[edit]

One of the oldest homes in Louisiana, Destrehan Plantation was constructed beginning in 1787 and completed in 1790, during the period of Spanish rule. Robert Antoine Robin de Logny contracted with Charles Pacquet, a free mulatto carpenter, to build a raised house in the West Indies Creole style, and outbuildings to support his indigo plantation. Pacquet was given the use of six slaves to build the house. He was paid the grand sum of "one brute negro," a cow and a calf, 100 bushels of both corn and rice, and $100 in cash upon completion.[2] This building contract, still on file at the parish courthouse in Hahnville, Louisiana, makes Destrehan Plantation the oldest documented house in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Jean-Noël Destréhan (1754–1823)[edit]

Upon Robin de Logny's death in December 1792, the plantation was purchased at auction by his son-in-law, Jean-Noël Destréhan, who had married his daughter, Marie-Claude Céleste Eléonore Robin de Logny (1770–1824), in 1786. The Destréhans had a total of 14 children, which required the addition of two semi-detached wings, or garçonnières, for their sons and the enclosure of the ground floor.[3] In the 1790s due to crop failures and indigo blight, Destréhan began raising sugarcane, especially after his brother-in-law, Étienne de Boré, perfected the granulation of sugar to make it a profitable cash crop. Destrehan Plantation became the leading sugar producer in St. Charles Parish in 1803.[4] The plantation was involved in the 1811 German Coast Uprising, as a result of Jean-Noël being appointed to the tribunal by Judge Pierre Bauchet St. Martin, to interrogate the slaves involved. Two trials were conducted, one at Destrehan Plantation and the other in New Orleans. The Destrehan trial resulted in the execution of 18 slaves.[5]

Stephen Henderson (1775–1838)[edit]

Ownership changed in 1825, when Stephen Henderson bought the plantation from the Destréhan estate. Henderson was an immigrant from Scotland, who arrived in the United States penniless, but became an extremely wealthy entrepreneur. In 1815, he married Marie Eléonore "Zelia" Destréhan, daughter of Jean-Noël Destréhan, who was 15 at the time of her marriage; Henderson was 40. Destrehan Plantation was Zelia's childhood home. Zelia died in 1830, childless, and a grief-stricken Henderson followed eight years later.[6] His will was quite controversial as he instructed that all his slaves be freed, and for those that desired, be given transport to Liberia. For those that stayed, a factory was to be set up for the freed slaves to manufacture shoes and clothes, and 25 years after his death a city was to be laid out on the grounds of the plantation and named Dunblane. The family contested the will and after 12 years in litigation, and tried before the Louisiana Supreme Court, the will was set aside due to a technicality.[7]

Pierre Adolphe Rost (1797–1868)[edit]

Pierre Adolphe Rost, a justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1845 to 1853, purchased the plantation from the Henderson estate in 1839. He and his wife, Louise Odile Destréhan, another daughter of Jean-Noël Destréhan, began to remodel the house in the then popular Greek Revival style. Doors and windows were trimmed in Greek Revival details, the columns were encased in plastered brick and the rear gallery was enclosed to make an entrance foyer. Also, removed from the corners of the rear gallery, winding staircases were re-installed in the center hall, and on the exterior, the stucco was scored to resemble stone.[8]

On the advent of the American Civil War, Rost offered his services to the Confederate States of America and was assigned as the Confederate Representative to Spain, where he stayed with his family for most of the war. In 1865, the plantation was seized by the Freedmen's Bureau and the Rost Home Colony was created. The colony was for the freedmen to have access to medical and educational aid, in addition to working for wages or for a portion of the crops. The Rost Home Colony was the most successful of those created in Louisiana and provided a profit to the Bureau. In 1865, Pierre Rost returned home from Europe, with a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, and demanded his property back. The Colony existed for an additional year, paying Rost rent, and the last colonist left in December 1866.[9] Pierre Rost died in 1868 and his wife and son, Emile Rost, continued to live at Destrehan Plantation. Emile Rost sold the plantation in 1910, to the Destrehan Planting and Manufacturing Company, ending family ownership of the estate after 123 years.[10]

American Oil Company[edit]

In 1914, the Mexican Petroleum Company, a predecessor of American Oil Company, bought the property and built an oil refinery. The company tore down the ancillary buildings around the mansion and built instead employee housing. The mansion itself was used in a variety of ways including a clubhouse. In 1959, American Oil tore down the refinery, abandoning the site and the following twelve years brought rapid decay for Destrehan Plantation. Thanks to an old legend that the illustrious privateer Jean Lafitte had hidden treasure in the house, treasure-seekers left gaping holes in the walls. Vandals also stripped the house of its Italian marble mantels, cypress paneling, Spanish tiles, and window panes. Fortunately, a local sheriff prevented the theft of the plantation's original 1840s iron gates and a 1,400 lb (640 kg) marble bathtub, rumored to be a gift from Napoleon Bonaparte to the family.

River Road Historical Society[edit]

In 1971, American Oil donated the house and 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land to the River Road Historical Society. The company continued its support in 1990 by donating funds for the installation of a sprinkler system and new roof, as well as gifting a further 12.8 acres (52,000 m2) surrounding the house.[11] Through its all-volunteer efforts, the society has raised sufficient funds to halt the process of decay, restoring the house and grounds to their former glory. Recent restoration efforts have focused on recreating the plantation community that surrounded the mansion. Destrehan Plantation is open seven days a week for guided tours which interpret the lives of the plantation's former residents—both free and enslaved. Demonstrations of period crafts like dyeing with indigo, candle-making, and open-hearth cooking are performed six days a week.[12]

Destrehan Plantation in popular culture[edit]

Destrehan Plantation was used as a location in the following feature films:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ Edwards, Jay D., 2002. Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans, pg.85
  3. ^ Cizek, E.D., Lawrence, J.H., and Sexton, R, 2008. Destrehan: The Man, The House, The Legacy. Destrehan, LA: River Road Historical Society.
  4. ^ "Destrehan Plantation tells colony's story". Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Jean Noel Destrehan". Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Destrehan Plantation History". Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ King, William W., 1851. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Louisiana
  8. ^ "Destrehan Plantation". Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Rost Home Colony, St. Charles Parish, Louisiana". Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  10. ^ Gutek, Gerald Lee, Gutek, Patricia, 1996. Plantations and Outdoor Museums in America's Historic South. University of South Carolina, pg 120.
  11. ^ Gutek, Gerald Lee, Gutek, Patricia, 1996. Plantations and Outdoor Museums in America's Historic South. University of South Carolina, pg 120.
  12. ^ http://www.experienceneworleans.com/louisianaplantationhomes.html

External links[edit]