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Destrehan Manor Museum –
Haunted Place: Destrehan Manor Museum
13034 River Road
Destrehan, Louisiana 70047
Phone: (985) 764-9315
The Destrehan Manor Museum can be found in
the lower Mississippi River Valley, about thirteen miles north of
New Orleans, and eight miles from The New Orleans Airport.
Directions: Take Interstate 10 West to Exit
220 (I-310 South), stay on I-310 for about 6 miles. Exit onto River
Road, and turn left at the light. (Warning: There are no signs to
advertise this museum or even street signs, thanks to Katrina?).
(Side bar: The few signs we did see in LA, they expect you to pay
attention, because no time is allowed to see it, making it hard to
even make the turn.) If you are unfamiliar with this area, this
makes it difficult to even find, unless you are armed with a really
good map and great verbal instructions from a museum staff member.
Be sure to call the museum for directions.
Destrehan Manor has the distinction of
being the oldest antebellum home found along the Mississippi River.
It was built in 1790 for a free mulatto, Charles deLogny and his
bride, Robin. Destrehan Manor's two story core structure has the
basic architectural idea known as the raised cottage West
Indies-Creole building plan, originally brought to the new world by
the Spanish, and adopted by the early planters for their homes, as
it has features which fit in well with life along the Gulf Coast
The first floor is raised above ground to
protect against moisture and floods. The top floor features a "wide
hipped roof and large, shady galleries to protect against the heat
and dormers to ventilate the attic" to prevent problems from the
Destrehan Manor was built with hand-hewn
cypress timbers. The insulation in the walls was called bousillage,
made up of a blend of horsehair and Spanish moss.
Like homeowners everywhere, the descendants
who bought the Destrehan Manor changed the place over the years to
accommodate family needs and changes in style. In 1810, Charles
deLogny's daughter, Celeste and her husband, Jean Noel d'Estrehand
built two wings, known in cultured circles as garconnieres, as
additions off the main structure to provide separate living space
for their growing family, which ended up being 14 children. When
the boys of the family reached their teen years, they were moved to
these additions along with their personal servants.
In 1840, in the middle of the antebellum
period (1830-1862), family descendants, Charles' granddaughter,
Louise and her husband Judge Pierre remodeled their plantation home
to reflect the popular Greek Revival period. They modernized and
refined Destrehan Manor's appearance by covering up the original
columns with brick Doric columns, adding curving staircases to the
other floors, constructed a curving rear walls and plastered the
then exposed ceiling beams, and changing and adding the capitals
and moldings, mantels and door surrounds.
As long as the oil companies ran their
refinery on the land, the Destrehan Manor was protected. When the
refinery built there was shut down in 1958, the Destrehan Manor
became open to scavengers who were either there looking for Lafitte
the pirate's treasure or taking anything of value from the inside
of the home itself. However, No one could figure out how to remove
the solid marble bathtub!
Despite a few hiccups, Destrehan Manor was
the beloved family home of Charles and Robin deLogny's descendants,
up until 1940. Except for the 12 years it stood abandoned
(1958-1970), the Destrehan Manor in one way or another has always
been a working property, being put to good use from its very
From 1790-1860, Indigo was the crop raised
on his plantation, which later was switched to sugar cane, because
this crop thrived in the hot, wet muggy weather. Being a working
plantation, slaves were an important part of the work force.
Stephen Henderson, who married the youthful Eleonor Destrehan, 30
years his junior, only lived in this place for a few years, tried
to change this reality. In his will, he freed all the slaves and
left his money for a factory to be built on the estate which would
manufacture shoes and clothes for black people. This of course went
over like a lead balloon with the surviving family. Other family
members contested the will, and it was thrown out in 1838, allowing
the sale of the plantation to Charles' granddaughter, Louise and
her husband Judge Pierre.
During the Civil War, the Union army took
over the Destrehan Manor making it a place for freed slaves to
learn a trade. After reconstruction, the family gained control of
the Destrehan Manor again until 1940 when they sold it to an oil
By this time, oil was the source of income
for the town of Destrehan, so it made sense to build a refinery on
part of Destrehan Manor's acres. This provided jobs to the
community as a whole, and brought oil money to their economy.
The dark period for the Destrehan Manor was
from 1958-1970, as it was possible to easily break in and help
oneself to whatever wasn't tied down. It seems that little
effective security existed at this time. Luckily, The River Road
Historical Society formed and rescued Destrehan Manor, now a
woe-be-gone shell of its former self, starting with getting the
manor declared National Historical site.
After negotiating with this society, the
oil company deeded to the River Road Historical Society 4 acres of
the original estate and the Destrehan Manor. The Destrehan Manor
once again had proper security, allowing the years of renovations
needed to begin immediately. By 1973, the mansion, though needing a
lot of renovation work was in good enough shape to offer the public
tours, which helped to raise money for this huge task.
Over the years, The River Road Historical
Society has so to speak put the Destrehan Manor back to work again.
To pay for the restoration, this society has raised money through
tours, demonstrations and their annual festival.
Visitors can take a tour of the Destrehan
Manor with tour guides dressed in period costume, who lead them
through the various rooms filled with antiques and reproductions so
lovingly put on display. One room remains unfinished to remind us
all that old buildings need restoration funds.
Destrehan Manor was chosen to be one of the
filming locations for the film, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. It does
look pretty spooky at twilight, just before the sun goes down.
Destrehan Manor offers their visitors a
trip back into history with demonstrations of period crafts and the
old ways of living. Visitors get to see on some days demonstrations
of "indigo dying, candle making or open-hearth cooking."
Destrehan Manor has it annual fundraiser,
called the Annual Cajun festival, held every fall. The festival has
more than 175 artists and crafters from all over the United States.
There is a Cajun and Creole food tent with more than 20 chefs
preparing a wide variety of food. Also, the 1830s Mule barn will
have more than 12 antique and collectible dealers, offering
treasures for sale. Of course, there is also historical
reenactments and a fine flow of musical entertainment to add to the
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
Stephen Henderson married 16 year old Marie
Eleonore "Zelia" Destrehan, who was 30 years younger. They lived
happily together at Destrehan Manor until Marie Eleonore died at
the tender age of 19. Stephen never quite recovered and died a few
Pirate John Lafitte made his huge fortune
by robbing Spanish ships loaded down with treasure in the Gulf of
Mexico. Lafitte lived in New Orleans but also did business with the
plantation owners. He was a personal friend of Stephen Henderson
and liked to visit Destrehan Manor.
Other entities who used to live here may
also be around, making an occasional appearance. An entity
identified as Lucy, who was a former mistress of Destrehan Manor,
was guilt ridden because of her cruel treatment of her house
slaves. She used to slap them around.
The hauntings began in the 1980s, when the
River Road Historical Society began to make great progress in
renovating and restoring this plantation, giving it some of the TLC
it badly needed. The entities, while having their personal issues,
are pleasant, complete with gentile southern manners of hosts,
willing to share their home with the living, probably thrilled that
someone fixed the place up finally!
Disembodied voices have been heard by staff
Staff have had odd experiences with the
Tourists taking pictures are surprised to
see apparitions, orbs and mists in their photos that weren't there
when the original photograph was taken. The staff has put such
photos on display for all to see when amazed tourists send these
pictures to them.
A white, misty form has been seen sitting
in its favorite chair, crossing the driveway and peering out a
second floor window.
A rocking horse in one of the upstairs
rooms, would rock back and forth vigorously by itself, freaking out
the workers restoring the rooms. The rocking horse was finally
removed from the room.
An apparition of a woman has been seen
standing on the back staircase.
Main Spirits: Entity of Stephen Henderson
and his young wife, Marie Eleonore "Zelia" Destrehan Henderson
Apparitions of both Stephen and Marie
Eleonore have been identified by both staff and visitors.
The apparition of John Lafitte has also
been seen by some.
It was around 7:15 pm when we finally found
Destrehan Manor, and of course it was closed. It was still light
enough to get some photos for our website. Tom and I stood in the
front of the mansion, getting our pictures from the roadside.
Suddenly, one of the curtains hanging in a first floor window moved
in a quick, jerky fashion, like someone had been watching us from
within the manor itself, and left suddenly. Yikes!
Australian Mystic Victoria Mason prayed
over the entity that Mason called Lucy, who Mason claims was stuck
in the mansion because of the curses put on her by the slaves she
abused with a vicious hatred. The entity of Lucy asked for
There have been plenty of eye witnesses and
pictures of the entities themselves who are enjoying their newly
"Plantation Mansions on the Mississippi" on nytimes.com * Destrehan Manor page on unsolvedmysteries.com
Haunted Places: The National Directory
by Dennis William Hauck
Destrehan Manor article on St. Charles Herald Guide * Destrehan Manor House page on prairieghosts.com