Located downriver from New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish, LeBeau Plantation was one of the area’s last plantation houses to survive into the twenty-first century until it was destroyed by arson in 2013.¹ Wealthy New Orleans businessman Francois Barthelemy LeBeau built the grand two-story residence as a weekend retreat in 1851-54.² It was notable architecturally as a late antebellum blend of Creole building traditions, including brick-between-posts construction, and fashionable American elements, such as a spacious center hall and Greek Revival–style detailing.³ The property served as a residence until the turn of the twentieth century, when it was converted into a hotel and, later, a casino, which made it a popular destination from New Orleans, where gambling was illegal.⁴ The house had been vacant since the 1970s, and for decades it was a popular target for vandalism and trespassing, particularly by thrill seekers who believed it was haunted.⁵
In the early hours of November 22, 2013, seven men broke into LeBeau Plantation to hunt for ghosts, and, when their adventure proved unsuccessful, they lit the house on fire.⁶ Despite firefighters’ efforts, the structure was soon reduced to a pile of rubble. The owner of the property, the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Foundation, was widely criticized for allowing the building to remain unoccupied for so many years, although the foundation claimed to have made its “best efforts” to secure the property.⁷
1. Danny Monteverde, “Historic LeBeau Plantation in Arabi Burns to the Ground,” theadvocate.com, November 27, 2013.
3. Richard Campanella, “In LeBeau House’s Ashes, a Lesson in Carpe Diem,” nola.com, November 25, 2013.
4. Monteverde, “Historic LeBeau Plantation in Arabi Burns to the Ground.”
5. Tania Dall, “St. Bernard Parish LeBeau Plantation Fire Draws Mourning Spectators,” wwltv.com, November 26, 2013; and Monteverde, “Historic LeBeau Plantation in Arabi Burns to the Ground.”
6. Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, “Seven suspects in LeBeau Plantation fire were looking for ghosts, sheriff says,” nola.com, November 22, 2013.
7. Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, “St. Bernard's Meraux Foundation says it made its "best efforts" to protect LeBeau Plantation,” nola.com, November 25, 2013.