Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ormond Plantation - Destrehan, LA (A Revitalized Classic)

13786 River Rd.
Destrehan, LA 70047

            Built before 1790 on a tract of land granted by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, the Ormond Plantation has survived into the late twentieth century with its unique character and sometimes tragic history. In the early 1780's, Pierre D'Trepagnier was awarded a tract of land by the Spanish Governor, Don Bernardo deGalvez, in recognition of D'Trepagnier's service in subduing the British at Natchez during the American Revolution. The main building was completed shortly before 1790 and was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. D'Trepagnier and their children. The family began growing indigo, and then sugar cane, and the Plantation began to prosper.
            The house is built in the "Louisiana Colonial" style for plantations, which is modeled after the great sugar plantations of the West Indies. The house was constructed using bricks between cypress studs ("Briquettes Entre Poteaux" or brick between posts) on the front and rear walls and a type of adobe filling on the sidewalls. Round cemented brick columns sported the front porch with wood columns on the second floor sporting the roof.
            The home was often the scene for entertaining officials of the Louisiana and Spanish Governments. In 1798, the first of the mysteries occurred. Pierre D'Trepagnier was summoned from a family meal by a servant to meet a gentleman, supposedly dressed in clothes signifying a Spanish official. After a word to his wife, Pierre D'Trepagnier left with the man and never returned. No trace of D'Trepagnier was ever found.

            On June 25, 1805, Col. Richard Butler, son and nephew of American Revolutionary war heroes bought the plantation home and land from Mrs. D'Trepagnier. Butler had served in the U.S. Army and had fallen in love with the South. He named his new home "Ormond", after his ancestral
Artist's Rendering of Ormond Plantation in 1787
home, the Castle Ormonde in Ireland. On August 7, 1809, Butler became a business partner with Captain Samuel McCutchon, a merchant and sailor, originally from Pennsylvania, when he sold to McCutchon, one-third share in Ormond Plantation. On June 29, 1819, in a private pact signed at the Plantation, Richard Butler turned over all of his holdings to Samuel McCutchon, and moved to Bay St. Louis. Some say that Butler moved to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic, but no true reason has been documented. If he did move to escape the fever, he did not move far enough away. The Yellow Fever hit Bay St. Louis and both Mr. and Mrs. Butler died from the disease in 1820.

            Like many other plantations of the South, Ormond fell on hard times following the War Between the States. She changed hands twice before being sold at a public auction in 1874, and again in 1875. Ormond was bought on December 1, 1898, by State Senator Basile LaPlace, Jr., son of the famous New Orleans pharmacist and land owner after whom the town of LaPlace is named. LaPlace's
Ormond Plantation in the Early 1930's
stay was short and tragic. He had earned a name for himself as a Justice of the Peace and then as a State Senator, and also by successfully managing the LaPlace Station, the land that his father left him. He used his wealth to buy Ormond, with hopes of profiting from its rice production. However, as is typical in politics, LaPlace also made a few enemies. On October 11, 1899, Basile LaPlace, Jr., met an ugly death.      

            Local legend has it that LaPlace had made enemies with the Ku Klux Klan, also known as the "White Caps". Supposedly he was called out into the night, and the members set on him, riddling his body with bullets, and then hanging him in the large oak tree which stands on River Road in front of the plantation home. Ormond passed from LaPlace's widow to his mother and then to the Schexnayder family, all during the year 1900. The five Schexnayder brothers (Joseph, Emilien, Barthelemy, Albert, and Norbet) each held an undivided one-fifth share of the property. The brothers drew straws to determine who would live in the House. Emilien drew the lucky straw, and moved his family into Ormond. Emilien died in 1910, but his children continued to live and raise their families in the house. At one time there were five families living under the roof of Ormond. The Schexnayder's held the property until 1926 when they turned it over to the Inter-Credit Corporation.    
            The story of Ormond becomes hazy in the late 1920's and through the 30's. It seems that a number of tenants occupied the house and land. Reports tell of the crumbling walls and ceilings, the sagging porch, and the general deterioration of the house. Fortunately, it was not too late to salvage
Ormond Plantation in 1934
Ormond. Thanks to its great original construction, it was able to be restored and renovated by Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Brown, owners of the Brown's Velvet Dairy in New Orleans. Beginning in late 1943, the Browns undertook major restoration, and renovations, which included enclosing the carriage ways and making the garconnieres an integral part of the building. The Browns' family added modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing, gas and electricity.

            After the death of Mrs. Brown, Mr. Brown sold Ormond to a real estate developer, and moved back to New Orleans. Original plans of the developer, Johnson and Loggins, included using the Manor house as the club house for a golf course. The developer began making changes in the Manor house but stopped in 1971.            
            In 1974, Johnson and Loggins sold the Manor and seventeen acres of land to Mrs. Betty R. LeBlanc, then executive vice-president of Barq's Beverages, Inc., in New Orleans. Through the late 1970's and early 1980's, Mrs. LeBlanc began restoring the Manor house, which began suffering from the changes made by the developer. She had hoped to finish restoring the home, but unfortunately cancer struck and quickly took Mrs. LeBlanc in June, 1986, leaving her dream unfinished. Fortunately, the home has come into new ownership and finally restored to its original, illustrious beauty.
            The most common paranormal activity reported is the apparition of a young girl, approximately between the ages of eleven and twelve. She has often been seen wandering the home but primarily seen on the main staircase.
            We were fortunate enough to investigate the home around 2007, when renovations were still underway. Being quite a large house, we decided to go with two DVR setups, for a total of eight
One of Several Guests' Bedrooms
infrared cameras, covering mostly the entire home. Our focus was, of course, the staircase where the apparition of the young girl had been reported.

            Throughout the night, no significant temperature or EMF changes were reported, nor were any unusual audio captured. However, on several occasions, some of our members heard strange noises throughout the house, unable to find their source. After a review of the video was complete, we notice a very interesting anomaly on the staircase.
            After close scrutiny, we observed some sort of light formation manifest on the stairs, appearing as if something may be descending from the staircase. We attempted to re-create this effect by walking back and forth with flashlights, hoping to get the same light on camera. However, all attempts yielded no duplication of what was initially captured.
            In a separate incident, a few seconds after an investigator passed in front of the camera that faced the staircase, the camera briefly shook then shifted to the right. The investigator was nowhere directly near the camera, nor did he snag the video line. We also attempted to recreate this by even jumping and stomping around the camera, trying to shake or move it. However the floor was very stable and the camera never could be moved in the manner that the video initially captured the event.
            The Ormond Plantation is a beautiful home and we are thrilled to see it finally restored to its former beauty. Today, the plantation is a popular wedding spot and people come from all around to dine at their excellent restaurant. The owners are extremely friendly and open to paranormal investigations. If you visit, tell them we sent you and show the deserving respect to such a historical and gorgeous facet of Louisiana history.

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