S. Frederick Starr




S. Frederick Starr lives in Washington, D.C., and is chair of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of numerous books on New Orleans, including New Orleans Unmasqued and Louis Moreau Gottschalk. He edited Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn.


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Une Belle Maison: The Lombard Plantation House in New Orleans's Bywater

An extraordinary look at the life, decay, and restoration of a plantation home

This book brings together artist John James Audubon; architect of the U.S. capitol, Benjamin Henry Latrobe; Lee Harvey Oswald; and Fats Domino in an engrossing story, linking these and other colorful figures to the history of a beautiful, historic home in New Orleans.

The Lombard plantation house is a rare survivor. Built in the early 19th century as a West Indianstyle residence, it was the focal point of a large plantation that stretched deep into the cypress swamps of what is now New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood. Featuring the best Norman trussing in North America, it was one of many plantation homes and grand residences that lined the Mississippi downriver from the French Quarter. A working farm until the 1800s, its lands were eventually absorbed into the expanding city. After years of prosperity, the entire area of the Ninth Ward, now known as Bywater, sank into poverty and neglect.

This is the story of the rise, fall and eventual resurrection of one of America's finest extant examples of West Indian Creole architecture and of the entire neighborhood of which it is an anchor. Through meticulous study of archives and archeology, the author presents fascinating insights on how residents of this working plantation actually lived. Because pre-Civil War U.S. censuses never listed more than five enslaved persons, all of whom worked in the house, the plantation appears to have depended mainly on hired labor, both African-American and Irish. Eventually these groups populated the new neighborhood, along with immigrants from Germany, and then new migrants from the countryside.

The book is illustrated with heretofore unidentified historic photographs and plans, and with color images by master architectural photographer Robert S. Brantley.


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