Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Mandeville History: A Resort Dreamed

 Among the many documents found in the collections of the late Bertha Neff, former parish archivist, was a research paper about Mandeville produced by Karen Arthur many years ago. 

To read the entire footnoted paper, CLICK HERE for a PDF file.

The following few paragraphs are excerpts from the research paper.


The Dream of Bernard de Marigny

by Karen Arthur

"Cool, sprawling Mandeville has been one of Louisiana's favorite vacation and recreation spots for more than one hundred years. Its pleasant climate and many natural recreation facilities are sought by thousands of New Orleans area resi­dents weekly.

"Mandeville has long served New Orleans area residents as an escape for the weekend; a place of rest and relax­ation. The Town of Mandeville is the product of a dream envisioned by one man, a man of drive and force---Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville.

"Bernard de Marigny is, perhaps, one of the most colorful men in Louis­iana history.

"The name Mandeville may be traced back to France and has long been associated with the French nobility. The family first came to the New World in the vicinity of Biloxi in the person of Francois Philippe de Mandeville, Sieur de Marigny.

"Pierre Philippe, father of Bernard de Marigny, would build the family fortune by speculating in land and many other successful business ventures.

"At the age of 18, Bernard Xavier, only son and heir of Pierre Philippe, received a fortune from his father who died while Bernard was attending school in France. Upon his return from France, Bernard assumed the responsibilities of the family business.

Big Spender

"Bernard found the temptation of vast wealth too great and soon fell into the habit of lavish spending. His chief weakness was shooting craps (a dice game he brought to New Orleans from France). "By the time he was twenty, Bernard had lost nearly one million dollars, principally by shooting craps."

"His gambling would eventually lead him to sell most of his holdings and "at one time his property was mortgaged for $280,000 at the Citizens Bank. His real estate holdings once included practically all the land between Esplanade and the Industrial Canal. Across the lake he owned what is now Fontainbleau Park and the Town of Mandeville.

"He owned about one-third of the city of New Orleans. The Third Municipal District was called Faubourg Marigny. Bernard realized the family fortune needed to be refurbished, so he began to divide the family ancestral home, on present day Esplanade Avenue, into streets and lots.

The Beginnings of Mandeville

"In 1829, Bernard de Marigny began the business ven­ture that would eventually lead to the creation of Mande­ville. Marigny began to buy property on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. On January 22, 1829, Bernard Marigny bought the property from the heirs of Morgan Edwards.

"This seems to be the first purchase by Marigny of property in this vicinity. Most of this property was later subdi­vided and became part of the town of Mandeville. Bernard de Marigny again bought hundreds of parcels of land on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain in May and June of 1829. It was during this time Marigny purchased lands and a residence from Marcelin and Miss Amelia Bonnabel.

The residence was described as follows:  A residence situated in St. Tammany Parish, facing Lake Pontchartrain,composed of three concessions, form­ing a total area of 4,020 arpents by a plan of January 15, 1799, by Charles Trudeau, surveyor general for the Prov­ince of Louisiana...The present sale is made for the con­sideration of $7090, having received one-half in cash ($2366) and the balance of ($4732) to be paid in six promissory notes.

Another tract of land was sold by Marcelin Bonnabel to Bernard Marigny the same day. It consisted of the following: Situated in St. Tammany Parish, a superficie of 774 arpents, facing Lake Pontchartrain, bounded on one side by the land of Mrs. Ford. This land was acquired by Mr. Antoine Bonnabel, father and grandfather of the vendors.

"These two tracts of land (4,020 arpents and 774 arpents) bought from the Bonnabel's by Bernard Marigny, comprised Fontainbleau Plantation. He gave it the Old World name Fontainbleau, because his son, Mandeville, who had been sent to France for military training, had served at the ancient French palace during the climb of the Napoleonic period and during the short time when Louis Philippe was king. It is believed that evidence has been shown to prove that Bernard Marigny bought Fontainbleau Plantation in 1829. Statements which cite earlier dates for the purchase of this land by the Marigny family prior to that time, are therefore not founded on fact.

The Stipulations

Marigny then sold, by auction, several of these properties and "the total sale brought a value of $80,000 with 426 lots sold. Considering that the entire property cost only $11,620, Marigny made a handsome profit. Marigny did, however, make stipulations to the buyers of the property. These stipulations are as follows:

1.    That the space situated between Lake Street and the lake will always remain free for common use.
2.    That all streets have a width of fifty feet wide; except Marigny and Jackson, which have a hundred, and of Lake Street which has sixty.
3.    That little Bayou Castain, which serves to drain, will not be stopped in its course.
4.    That the wharf marked on the plan will be maintained by owners of the lots of Mandeville.
5.    Mr. Marigny obligates himself to have made a bridge across the little Bayou Castain and one across Shell Ravines, to be maintained by owners of the lots.

"Streets were laid out, trees were planted with an eye, to avoid undesirable additions to the community, rather than to secure financial profits. Public buildings were provided, bridges built, a church and market hall duly erected. Above all, a town government was instituted.

"The small village called Mandeville began to grow rapidly. Mandeville was incorporated by a special charter in 1840, and the charter is still used today. Mandeville soon became a favorite resort area for New Orleans residents. Many fine homes were built along the lake; some still are occupied today. "Marigny financed a ferry service between Mandeville and New Orleans and provided that the ferry fare should not exceed S1.00.

"In 1852, due to Marigny's continuing financial difficulties and economic pressures, he was forced to sell Fontainbleau. Mandeville, however, continued to grow during the 1850's.

"Many of the most refined Creole families passed the summer at charming, pleasant Mandeville, of the picturesque beach--a village grown consider­ably since 1853.

Bronze John

"Many city residences not only escaped the summer heat that smothered New Orleans by coming to Mandeville. but they also fled the annual epidemic of "Bronze John" or yellow fever. In 1853, the dreaded disease was an early visitor to the Crescent City. Little did anyone suspect it would be the worst yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans history. "More than 8,000 persons went to, their graves in a little more than five months, and almost 5,000 of them in a space of four weeks."

"Dr. Fenner, President of the Louisiana Medical Association, estimated almost a third of the people left town when Bronze John moved in. Mandeville proved to be one of the escape areas.

"Mandeville had many kinds of recreation to offer city dwellers. Men, women and children enjoyed fishing and crabbing in the plentiful waters on the North Shore The virgin forests were teeming with game such as deer, rabbit, squirrel, wild turkey, wild boar, quail and pigeons. The beach provided swimming and boating and a cool breeze from the lake.

"Baseball was also a popular sport, and a team was formed according to the Mandeville Wave, August 1, 1874. The Mandeville Wave also reported the first yacht race that took place in years, in June, 1875. 

A Boat Trip Across The Lake

"The following is an account of a trip from the New Orleans lake front to Mandeville:
We found ourselves aboard the good steam­boat Lenora...and in some two hours and a half were safely landed on the picturesque beach at Mandeville...the morning breeze was just cool and fresh enough to make us forget the city heat. The day was passed in this hot weather in lounging with coats, vests, and cravats off, reading, bathing, fishing, sailing, eating and drinking.

"We had the blessings of a charming breeze all the while, and there was not a fly or mosquito near 'to disturb us or make us afraid.'

"Pleasant days were spent in other ways. In a letter, Justice David B. Morgan describes a marriage ceremony he had performed that day in Mandeville. The marriage between Joseph Worth and Martha Faircloth was described, and the marriage certificate enclosed.

"Mandeville boasted a number of permanent residents. Advertisements in the Mandeville Wave, published every Saturday, included the following advertisements which reflected the business and professional activities of the community:

Businesses Listed

1.    J. Angelina-Confectionary, Dry Good, Groceries, Wines, and Liquors. The choicest and best.

2.    Mandeville Academy-Professor Harvey Roome, Principal. All the English Branches. French and the Classics taught. Young men carefully prepared for entering college. Evening classes from 7 to 9:30 P.M.

3.    Dr. J. A. Thurber (139 Royal Street) Dentist. Makes use in his practice of all the latest improvements in Dental Science, and will attend punctually all persons requiring his professional service.

4.    E. J. Smith-Groceries, Dry Good, Hardware Highest price paid for farmers' produce.

"Other citizens of Mandeville had such occupations as fisher­men, hotel owners, and those who worked for the steamboat lines. A pottery factory run by Choctaw Indians and located on Bayou Castin was popular with guests and residents alike.

"At one time there were a number of steamboats that made regular trips to Mandeville from New Orleans. Some of the boats' names were the Lenora, the Camelia, the Ozone, the St.Tammany, and the Susquahana."

See also:

A Look At Bernard de Marigny, Founder of Mandeville 

Property Sales That Led To Mandeville & Fontainebleau 

Bernard De Marigny: The Man Who Was Mandeville 

The History of Fontainebleau State Park