In January 1787, indigo planter Robert Antoine Robin de Logny signed a contract with free man of color Charles (whose last name may have been Paquet), a carpenter, woodworker, and mason, for the construction of his house. The contract specified a building 60 feet in length, 35 feet in width, raised 10 feet on brick piers, a surrounding gallery 12 feet in depth, and three dormers above the principal doors on the front and one dormer at the rear. For payment, Charles received an enslaved person, a cow and her calf, fifty quarts each of rice on chaff and corn in husks, and a 100 piastres. The house was built with a pegged cypress frame and bousillage infill, a double-pitched roof with Norman trusses, and an upper gallery supported on slender wooden columns.
At de Logny's death in 1792, an inventory of the estate recorded a house, kitchen, a storehouse, two old hospitals, a pigeonnier, a coach house, nineteen slave cabins, nine pairs of vats for indigo processing, various sheds, and fences. In 1802, de Logny's daughter Marie-Claude Celeste Robin de Logny and her husband, Jean-Noël d'Estréhan, acquired the plantation. Sometime before d'Estréhan's death in 1823, two-story wings were added to each side of the house. Along with other planters at this time, the d'Estréhans turned from indigo to sugarcane production. It was during the d'Estréhans' ownership that the plantation was involved in one of the largest slave revolts in American history. In 1811, about five hundred enslaved people, led by Charles Deslondes, marched from a plantation near present-day LaPlace (St. John the Baptist Parish) to Kenner (Jefferson Parish), and several enslaved people from Destrehan joined them. More than one-hundred enslaved were killed during the uprising, and approximately seventy-five others faced tribunals, one of which took place at Destrehan. Jean-Noël d'Estréhan served as a member of the tribunal.
When the d'Estréhans' daughter Louise and her husband, Pierre Rost, acquired the plantation in 1838, they refashioned the house in the latest Greek Revival style. They encased the gallery supports in double-height columns of plastered brick, remodeled the cornice, enclosed the rear gallery, moved the stairs from the outer corners of the rear gallery to its center, and added Greek Revival trim to the doors and windows. The plan of six rooms on the upper floor was left largely unaltered; the principal change was the conversion of the two center rooms into a double parlor with pocket doors instead of a wall. On the exterior of the house, light yellow stuccoed walls scored to resemble stone, dark green shutters, and red-painted gallery rails replicate the mid-nineteenth-century color scheme.
For two years before the Civil War, Destrehan served as a headquarters for the Freedmen's Bureau, where ex-slaves were housed and taught a trade. After the war, Destrehan passed through several ownerships, from the Rosts to Mexican Petroleum Company in 1914, to the American Oil Company (Amoco) in 1958, which donated it to the River Road Historical Society in 1971. The society restored the badly deteriorated house under the direction of architect Eugene Cizek. As part of the restoration, two cisterns were reproduced, one to house an elevator that provides wheelchair access to the house. Of the plantation's dependency buildings, only one hip-roofed structure of unknown purposes survives. In 1997, an immense elevated mule barn, 162 feet by 35 feet, constructed in the 1830s of pegged timber, was moved from Glendale Plantation and rebuilt at Destrehan.
Destrehan is open to the public.
Lawrence, John. Destrehan: The Man, The House, The Legacy. Destrehan, LA: River Road Historical Society, 2008.
Masson, Ann M., and Jean M. Farnsworth, ed. The Architecture of Colonial Louisiana: Collected Essays of Samuel Wilson, Jr., FAIA. Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1987.