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On Friday afternoon, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann announced the arrest of seven people associated with the fire at the LeBeau Plantation.

“We have one individual in custody from Arabi,” Sheriff Pohlmann told reporters during a Friday afternoon news conference. “All of the six remaining persons in custody are from Texas. These guys apparently work together and apparently were intrigued by the history of the LeBeau Planatation.

“Some time in the early morning hours they entered the LeBeau Plantation with the hopes of looking for some ghosts. While inside, several of them remained on the scene, were smoking some marijuana, and prior to leaving they decided to set the LeBeau plantation on fire.

“They were successful in doing so and the building is currently a total loss.”

Joe Meraux must be rolling over in his grave right now. It’s not enough that his plans after death aren’t being followed. Now one of his prized estate assets is gone forever.

The LeBeau Plantation, at the end of Friscoville Street at the Mississippi River in Arabi, is gone.  Overnight a fire ravaged the massive structure that was built in 1851, or a decade before the Civil War started.

The Meraux estate, with an estimated value of $250 million, has many real estate holdings including historic Lafite’s Blacksmith Shop in the French Quarter. But the most historic and significant structure was LeBeau Plantation. The 16-room structure was the largest plantation south of New Orleans. Now it’s gone, forever.

And ultimately, the worthless Meraux foundation board down in Chalemette is to blame.

Joe Meraux left specific instructions to the parish of St. Bernard to use his estate to better the people and his parish. Instead, it’s been a money grab. More money is paid out in six-figure salaries to lazy, politically-appointed board members than is given to the citizens of the parish each and every year. And now, that same corrupt board has neglected to perform one of its most basic duties: protecting the assets of the Meraux estate.

Contrary to what these board members think, the estate and its quarter-of-a-billion dollars in assets is meant to benefit the citizens of St. Bernard, not a select few. Now, those select few have committed the biggest sin: they’ve allowed an irreplaceable historic building to be destroyed.

The LeBeau Plantation is gone, not because of a fire last night that burned the building to the ground, but because of the Meraux Foundation Board: a corrupt group of little people that not only are screwing over the parish of St. Bernard and its citizens who have now destroyed one of St. Bernard Parish’s most historic assets.

Joe Meraux must be rolling over in his grave, even more so than usual today.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office announced that they have “detained several people in connection with the Friday morning fire which destroyed the historic LeBeau Mansion in Arabi.”

More details are expected during a news conference Friday afternoon.

News
11/22/13

Historic LeBeau Plantation in Arabi destroyed by fire

A historic plantation house in Arabi has burned the ground. St. Bernard Fire Chief says the fire looks suspicious.

Kids growing up in Arabi all knew of the LeBeau Plantation House. All that’s left now is rubble. In better days, it was a proud historic building in need of some preservation. It was built in 1851. Teenagers who said it was haunted often dared each other to go inside. Then, around 2 a.m. Friday, it was engulfed in flames so high and so hot that fire fighters could only set up a perimeter to keep them from spreading.

It was once the largest plantation house south of New Orleans. Fire fighters could only watch as the 162-year-old LeBeau Plantation burned to the ground.

“Such a devastating loss to our community,” St. Bernard Fire Chief Tomas Stone said. “It was a beautiful historical plantation. It’s a fire chief’s worst nightmare, to lose a historical structure due to fire.”

Chief Stone told WGNO News the house had no utilities and calls the fire suspicious. No one has lived in the building since the 1980s.

When the sun came up Friday morning, stunned neighbors gaped at what was left: four tall chimneys and a pile of charred lumber.

Jerri Looper remembered coming home to her flooded house after Hurricane Katrina, only to find comfort that the LeBeau house had survived:

“I sat down on the ground at the corner and I looked up at the mansion and I saw that it was still standing and I just think it’s ironic that a fire took it out, but it withstood a terrible hurricane.”

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