Historic Structures

Ormond Plantation, Destrehan Louisiana

Date added: March 17, 2016 Categories: Louisiana Plantations & Farms House

The plantation house at Ormond is situated on the left bank of the Mississippi River just above Destrehan, in St. Charles Parish. The house is said to have been built by Richard Butler, a member of a prominent family of American Army people who came to Louisiana from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, at the time of the transfer in 1803. Col. Thomas Butler was in command of the American troops who took possession of the colony at that time. He died of yellow fever in 1805, Another member of the family, a cousin of Richard Butler, was a general during the Mexican War.

When Richard Sutler acquired the property from the Widow Charbonnette (Antoinette Livaudais) on May 29, 1811, there was included in the sale a residence, sugar house, etc. This indicates that perhaps part of the middle house was there and that the wings were added or even the "main house" enlarged by the addition of the enclosed stair.

The property was acquired from Richard Butler in 1819 by Samuel McCutcheon, a former ship captain with whom Butler was in partnership in the ownership of a large adjoining tract. McCutcheon also acquired the land on the south from Jean Elenore Arnauld in 1826. MoCutoheon evidently married a member of the Butler family as the name "Butler" was continued for several generations in his family.

According to an old survey, a copy of which is on file among the township plats in the Federal Land Bank, only the land close to the river was fit for cultivation of sugar cane. The rest of the large tract was nothing but cypress and willow swamps and open marsh along Lake Pontchartrain.

Ormond is unusual for a plantation house in Louisiana, the scheme of the central portion flanked by two symmetrical detached wings, though of a later period, suggesting the influence of Virginia and the Atlantic Seaboard. The detail throughout is very good, delicate and fine in scale, and belongs to the tradition of the early houses of Natchez and the Felicianas.

Materials and method of construction used in the main body of the house are very interesting, being of a type familiar in many smaller buildings in Louisiana and known as BRIQUETTES ENTRE POTEAUX (brick between posts), a sort of half-timber construction. The front wall is framed with five-inch square rough studs, the interstices being filled with brick. The end walls are similarly framed but an adobe filling is used in place of the brick. All other rails are ordinary frame construction with the exception of an eight-inch brick partition across the center of the first floor.

There is a two-story gallery across the entire front of the house, with round cemented brick columns on the first floor and chamfered square wood columns on the second. The house, including the gallery, is roofed with a low pitched hipped roof covered with split cypress shingles.

The columns on both floors as well a& the stiles and rails of doors and shutters are painted a burnt sienna color. Beams and girders are painted ochre to match the walls, while the panels of doors and shutters are dark buff. The brick work is painted dark red.

The floor of the gallery on the first floor is paved with eight-inch square stone tiles in checkerboard pattern, alternating light pink and slate color. The floor of the passages between the main house and the wings, the walk across the rear, and the now almost obliterated front walk are soft red brick.

The plan is quite simple, there being four principal rooms on each floor with a stair hall extending lfrom front to back at each end. The principal stair is at the east end rising from the center of the hall, in a double flight, to the second floor* There is a cove ceiling in the hall with a wood cornice, chair rail and base. All the rooms were originally plastered, although several have since been covered with boards. All rooms, except the stair hall and the rear room at the east end of the first floor have beaded wood ceilings. The attic is unfinished.

The wings are connected to the house by open galleries. Both are identical except for the detail of the mantels, which is particularly good. The walls are of brick, cemented on the second floor, and the hipped roofs are covered with cypress shingles. There is a brick chimney in the center of the ridge of each wing as well as of the main house. Each wing contains four rooms, two on each floor.

The water supply for the house was furnished from two subterranean cisterns, one at each end of the house, which were filled with rain water from the roof. These cisterns are of brick, cemented inside, circular in plan with a conical top which projects slightly above grade. There was originally a circular opening in the center of this top, like a brick well head projecting above the ground, into which the downspouts emptied and through which the water was drawn from the cisterns. This type of cistern is quite common in Louisiana, although the circular wooden type, built above grade, is perhaps more often seen. There is a new one of this type at the rear of the house and also an old well.

Several of the outbuildings of the plantation, slave quarters, a Jail and meat house stand in the field back of the house.