Bernard de Marigny: No-good gambler or real estate genius?

Bernard de Marigny: No-good gambler or real estate genius?

They stood like two large sentries jutting up out of the fog, large brick chimneys as tall as the encompassing bushes. It was 2011, and I had come early within the morning to shoot panorama images of the oak alley at Fontainebleau State Park close to Mandeville. The chimneys and a few adjoining crumbling partitions have been all that was left of Bernard de Marigny’s previous sugar mill from the 1830s, interpretive indicators defined to me.

This connection to the founding father of Faubourg Marigny made me smile, since “Marigny” was the identify my spouse and I had given our oldest baby. I made a be aware of the construction however moved on to the bushes, creating some photographs which can be nonetheless a few of my favorites.

Flash ahead to as we speak. I’m now an FAA-registered drone pilot right here at NOLA.com | The Instances-Picayune. I discovered myself questioning lately about Marigny, his sugar mill and Fontainebleau, considering there could be a narrative and a few cool drone footage to be shot. Because it seems, there was all that and extra, as soon as I scratched the floor of the story of this difficult and necessary determine within the historical past of each side of Lake Pontchartrain.

Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville was born in 1785 in New Orleans, the great-grandson of one of many metropolis’s founders. His forebears had all been French army officers, and on the time of his beginning, the household was rich. The principle Marigny plantation was simply exterior the gates of the French Quarter, south of town on the Mississippi River. When his father died in 1800, younger Bernard, the one son, was the only real inheritor.

At the moment, New Orleans’ progress was exploding because the area turned a magnet for all types of enterprise ventures. Marigny had the imaginative and prescient to comprehend his personal enterprise alternative, subdividing a lot of his plantation into residential tons in 1809. He supplied 15-year financing at eight p.c, in response to native Marigny knowledgeable Robin Leckbee Perkins, the St. Tammany Parish data administration director within the Clerk of Courts workplace in Covington. Marigny’s actual property hypothesis was an instantaneous hit. New Orleans was bursting on the seams and wanted extra locations for folks to dwell.

The sugar mill smash at Fontainebleau State Park close to Mandeville, La. The Fontainebleau plantation belonged to Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville. He had St. Tammany’s first industrial park with the sugar mill, a noticed mill, brick kiln and extra. Photograph by Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Instances-Picayune

Quick ahead to the late 1820s and we discover Marigny beginning to purchase parcels of land on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain simply west of Bayou Castine. He was planning to construct a resort city on the undeveloped land on the lakefront, figuring out it will enchantment to these with sufficient wealth to take pleasure in escaping New Orleans’ summer season ailments and warmth. The resort city of Mandeville must wait till Marigny made one other buy first, although.

In June of 1829, he purchased the Bonnabel plantation throughout the bayou from his different holdings. It was by far his largest buy, at nicely over four,000 acres, and got here with cattle, a corn mill, a country residence and 6 enslaved folks. He renamed the plantation Fontainebleau as a result of he stated it reminded him of the French king’s lovely forests exterior of Paris. Over the following 20-plus years he constructed a brick kiln, sugar mill, blacksmith’s store, noticed mill and an infirmary on the property. A canal was dug to attach his industrial buildings to the lake, permitting transport forwards and backwards to New Orleans. About 100 enslaved males, ladies and kids lived and labored on the property. Perkins calls it St. Tammany’s first industrial park.

The principle oak alley at Fontainebleau was not for the proprietor’s house, which was a modest dwelling to the west that’s believed to have been there when Bernard de Marigny bought the property in 1829. The cabins for the roughly 100 enslaved folks residing and dealing on Fontainebleau have been grouped round and beneath these oaks. Photograph by Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Instances-Picayune

One of many issues I used to be shocked to be taught when talking with Robin Perkins was that the attractive oak alley I had photographed didn’t, as I had assumed, lead from the lake to Marigny’s planation house. As a substitute it shaded a group of slave cabins. Marigny’s home was farther to the west, beneath another oaks. Perkins believes it remained the modest home that he inherited from the Bonnabels when he purchased the property.

One of many fashionable legends about Marigny is that he was nothing however a gambler and wastrel and frittered his fortune away. Whereas it is true he appreciated to gamble and occasion, it wasn’t playing that did him in. The nationwide Panic of 1837, a monetary disaster in the US, hit Marigny arduous. Though he held on for 15 years, he was pressured to promote Fontainebleau in 1852 to settle his money owed.

At present, all that is straightforward to see from these days is the smash of the sugar mill. (When the Civilian Conservation Corps got here into the world within the 1920s to assist set up what got here to be Tchefuncte State Park, they bulldozed all the opposite remaining buildings.) The situation of the brick kiln is understood, and for those who wander by way of the underbrush there you shortly come across a whole lot of historic, moss-covered brick fragments. The remnants of the work canal are additionally nonetheless there, off within the underbrush to the east of the oak alley.

It is a picture within the Fontainebleau State Park Guests Middle of a portray believed to be of the primary home on the Fontainebleau plantation. Photograph by Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Instances-Picayune

The situation of Marigny’s home is understood. Richard Scott, who runs the Guests Middle at Fontainebleau, says he likes to wander round that space after storms have introduced floodwater. The final time that occurred he discovered one of many house’s previous flagstones washed up.

A lot of the plantation’s buildings are nonetheless there, amongst the picnic tables and swingsets and visiting Winnebagos, however they take a skilled eye to see.

[FOOTNOTE: Marigny’s nose for real estate was again rewarded when he created the town of Mandeville. After acquiring the land west of Fontainebleau over a period of 2 1/2 years, he surveyed and prepared for sale residential lots. He then advertised the upcoming auctions and even chartered steamboats to bring prospective buyers across from New Orleans. It was an instant success. During the first three-day auction, he sold 388 lots for about $80,000 worth of property. That’s about $2.16 million today.]