There's still a chance that the old LeBeau house, just south of New Orleans, can be
saved, but there's no question that time is running out for the historic building. It is
one of only two Arabi plantation homes to make it to the 21st century and was once
the largest plantation south of New Orleans.
Although the building has had no human inhabitants since the 1980's, there's a
possibility that it may have at least one resident of the supernatural variety. For
years, local residents have reported seeing a light go off and on in the house's
cupola, where no light should be, since there's no electricity connected.
The land on which the house stands - for years now, in the shadow of the Domino
Sugar Refinery - was first granted in 1721. Various plantations used the property for
a hundred years or so; then, for the next thirty years, it was used as a brickyard. In
1851, Franciose Barthelemy LeBeau purchased the property and started
construction of the house pictured on this page. The LeBeau home has sixteen
rooms, but only one interior staircase. When officials told LeBeau he would be
taxed on the number of interior stairwells, he took down the ones already
completed and moved them to the outside of the house - not an uncommon
occurrence in those days. Mr. LeBeau died in 1854, only a few months after the
house was completed, but it remained in the LeBeau family until 1905.
It was purchased at that time by Friscoville Realty and, for the next twenty years,
the old home was the site of the Friscoville Hotel. In 1928, Jai Alai Realty bought the
house, re-named it the Cardone Hotel and used it as an illegal gambling casino,
known to locals as the Jai Alai Casino. To this day, gun turrets built into the closets
can be found from it's Prohibition days as a wild and woolly gambling house.
Between 1938-1967, it had several owners. In 1967, Joseph Meraux purchased the
house and it's deteriorated badly since then. An attempt was made in the 1980's to
include the property in an Historic District, but the project was blocked. In 1986, a
fire severely damaged the interior and roof of the building. There were some
restoration efforts undertaken in the next few years, but each time, they were
Finally, in 2003, much needed stabilization work was done on the house. Full-scale
restoration plans were in the works when Hurricane Katrina came through in 2005
and decimated St. Bernard Parish.
In recent years, I've heard that developers were working on a project to restore
the old home and open it to the public, but it's been awhile since I've heard whether
the project is ongoing. -- Nancy
Arabi, St. Bernard Parish, LA
|Smokestacks of the Domino Sugar Refinery can be seen in the background.
|Above & below, LeBeau house in 1910, at the time it was the Friscoville Hotel.