Located just outside of New Orleans on the Mississippi River is the great antebellum Destrehan Plantation. Designated a National Historic landmark, the estate was first established in 1787 by Robin deLogny. It is the oldest documented plantation house in the lower Mississippi River Valley.
In the early 1800s DeLogny’s son-in-law Jean Noel Destrehan de Beaupre bought the home at a public auction. Over the next several years, the plantation grew to include about 6,000 acres and the main house received an addition as well, in part to accomodate Jean Noel’s 14 children.
One of Destrehan de Beaupre’s greatest claims to fame was his appointment by President Thomas Jefferson to the Orleans Legislative Council. This group of well established Louisiana landowners was meant to help the transition of the Orleans Territory into the United State after the Louisiana Purchase. The council allowed the territory in Louisiana to have a voice in government until statehood was achieved in 1812. Perhaps the longest standing precedent established by this council was the dividing of the Orleans Territory into parishes instead of counties, setting Louisiana apart from the rest of the nation to this day.
The document signed by Jefferson appointing Destrehan and three other men to the council is on display in a climate controlled room in the plantation. It is considered to be among the most significant documents in Louisiana history.
During the Civil War, the owner at the time (husband of one of Jean Noel’s daughters) left for Europe with his family. The land was seized by the Union and turned into an agricultural cooperative for freedmen. Through a pardon from President Andrew Jackson, however, the property was eventually turned back over to the Destrehan’s, where it stayed until 1910.
The plantation is now maintained by a non-profit organization. Thankfully, the Destrehan sustained no damage from Hurricane Katrina, and tours are given daily throughout the grounds of this historic plantation.