This 1790 structure stands just thirteen miles
north of New Orleans
and offers visitors a rare glimpse into the historic, and haunted, tales of
Louisiana plantation life.
Destrehan Manor House was completed in 1790 and faces the Mississippi River about thirteen miles north of New Orleans. The house is in the Greek Revival style of the mid-1800's, when a large amount of remodeling was done. In its early days, the property also held a number of outbuildings, including nineteen slave cabins. Much of the house was changed during the remodeling, including covering over the original columns with brick Doric columns, adding curving staircases to the upper floors, a curving rear wall and plastering over the exposed ceiling beams. Extensive restoration work has also been done in recent years and the plantation has also gained notoriety by appearing in several scenes of the film, Interview with the Vampire.
The house was originally built by Robert Antoine Robin de Longy and it was sold to his daughter and her husband, Jean Noel d'Estrahan in 1802. The descendants retained the farm as sugar cane became profitable but when an owner, Stephen Henderson, died in the early 1800's, he wrote into his will a clause freeing his slaves and providing money and land to build a factory to manufacture clothing and shoes for blacks. His heirs fought the will and it was eventually nullified in 1838.
Descendants of the family owned the property until the early years of the 20th century, when it was purchased by an oil company that later went on to become AMOCO. A refinery was built on the site but was closed in 1958 and the house was left to the ravages of time.
It was purchased by a non-profit restoration group in 1972 and they have maintained it ever since, working hard to restore the house to its former glory.
But what about the ghosts?
The stories of a haunting at Destrehan Manor have been around for a long time. The majority of the stories seem to come from recent years, after restorations began on the house. There have been many witnesses, from staff members to tourists, who claim to have had strange encounters here from apparitions, to unexplained sounds and mysterious happenings.
The main ghost is said to be that of Stephen Henderson, who lived in the house with his wife Elenore, formerly Destrehan, in the early part of the 1800's. He and Elenore lived happily in the house for only a year or so before she died unexpectedly at the age of 19. Stephen was heartbroken and died just a few years later, never really recovering. The apparition of a man has been seen at the house in recent years and many believe that it may still be Stephen's spirit lingering behind.
But there are other stories also....
Like that of a former owner who attended a reception at the manor.... which would not be unusual except for the fact that he had died earlier that day in New Orleans.
Another ghost has been identified as the pirate Jean Lafitte, although this seems questionable.
Lafitte was a gentleman pirate who lived in the New Orleans area in the early 19th century. He gathered a huge fortune by preying on Spanish treasure ships in the Gulf of Mexico, slave-running and smuggling. He often did business with local plantation owners and was a friend of Stephen Henderson.
Because of the fact that Lafitte often visited the house, rumors began in the 1960's that he had buried some part of his treasure there. During this time when the manor was abandoned, it was constantly broken into by vandals and treasure hunters looking for loot. Unfortunately, there is no indication that he ever left any there.
Even more recently, staff members have reported more strange phenomena and are not adverse to displaying some of the off photographs that have been taken there by visitors who got a little more than they bargained for in their snapshots.
While nearly every old plantation house has its ghost stories... there remain many mysteries to still be uncovered at Destrehan Manor!
Destrehan is about thirteen miles north of New Orleans. It is open to visitors and tickets are available for $6 per person. Indoor photography is not allowed.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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