The N.O. newspaper Times-Picayune of October 6, 2008 ran a front page article (which just came to my attention today) on the immiment demolition of a creole cottage in Gretna, across the river from N.O. in Jefferson Parish. Owner of the badly neglected building is Yancey Royal who inherited it from his father and who is trying valiantly to find out more about the history of the building in order to stave off its demolition. He can be reached through the author of the article, Chris Kirkham, at ckirkham@timespicay une.com or (504) 826-3786.A friend of mine from the Gretna Heritage Assoc. sent me two documents about this property and its serving for 21 years (1871 to 1892 –during Reconstruction) as a creole school until it was sold to a creole social aid association in 1892. There is no mention of race in the documents, but my friend said they have verified that Patrice Lagarde, president of the school assoc. at the time it was sold, was a free man of color. From that it can be deduced that so were the other men involved.The St. Raphael Laborers Benevolent School was incorporated in December 1871. President was Benjamin Lamothe, Vice-pres was Patrice Lagarde, sec. was Bernard Daste, treasurer was Sebastian Roché, and member at large was H(?) ella Duplessis. The school was “to be open to all children without regard to race, color or previous condition”. A second document is the transfer and sale of the school, whose president at the time was Patrice Lagarde, July 5, 1892 to the McDonogh Benevolent Association headed up by Edgar D. Lombard. Witnesses to the transaction were Arthur P. Carmouche and Ignatius Lamothe without indication that they were members of either group. None of these names appear in my database, though the surnames are well known in the free people of color community of that time. No one seems to know anything about the St. Raphael School nor the McDonogh Beneveloent Assoc. today. There were several buildings originally on the property and several “schools” referred to in the incorporation papers, but only the small creole cottage remains, and that is in very bad condition. If you know anything about these institutions and/or any of the men named above, it would be very helpful to the current owner Mr. Royal and others concerned about saving the building. This is one of only a handful of creole associated buildings on the Westbank. It would be a tragedy to lose it now that the documents of its history were found in the title papers to the house and its history has become known.
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