St. Bernard Parish Lebeau Plantation fire draws mourning spectators

St. Bernard Parish Lebeau Plantation fire draws mourning spectators

St. Bernard Parish Lebeau Plantation fire draws mourning spectators

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 23, 2013 at 12:14 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 5:03 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

ARABI, La. -- More than a century and a half of south Louisiana history lay in ashes in Old Arabi. More than a half-dozen people who police say were drinking and on drugs face criminal charges in connection to the massive fire at the Lebeau Plantation.

"They had to be over there when the fire started or else all of this wood be gone," said Jacqueline Ryan, pointing to the burned out shell of the old historic plantation.

Like many in St. Bernard Parish, the Chalmette resident woke up to the sobering news. "It's upsetting and I kind of had to see it for myself," said Ryan.

Detectives say a group of seven people broke into Lebeau Plantation to drink and smoke drugs. Investigators say the suspects were drawn to the home's haunted history at one point even attempting to summon spirits. Then the fire broke out.

"It was really heartbreaking. I don't see why people have to destroy things that isn't theirs. It doesn't make sense. Go destroy your own stuff," said Paige Brown. The Delgado student says she just finished writing a paper on the plantation.

"It made it through Katrina. Yeah, they didn't restore it but it was still a piece of history and now nothing," said Brown.

"It was broken. It didn't have any bricks on it," said third grader Aiyana Santini. On Friday night, she drove over from Slidell with her grandmother to see what is now lost.

"It was history. I just loved it. I liked sitting there watching it. I never saw a ghost. Everyone would say it's haunted," said Slidell resident Macy Dukes.

Rumors of ghosts are what brought a curious group to the plantation over night. Local residents say it was also a big draw during Halloween.

"The place was haunted. You had a lot of ghosts and a lot of lights going even when the electricity was taken off," said Dr. Christina Vella, a Tulane University historian, adding that Lebeau was one of two remaining grand plantations in St. Bernard Parish with a diverse history.

"It was the Friscoville Hotel for awhile then during Prohibition; it became a gambling casino, kind of a notorious place," said Dr. Vella.

As well-wishers continued to show up for a final look at the Lebeau Plantation, Ryan said it's a shame.

"It's another piece of historic ground that St. Bernard has lost. Now we have to suffer for it because of ridiculousness," said Ryan.

The seven suspects taken into custody on Friday face criminal charges, including arson, simple burglary and criminal damage.

The Meraux Foundation is the current owner of the old plantation site.

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