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Blake Pontchartrain: What’s the story of Belle Chasse? 

The N.O. It All on who — or what — was the catalyst for naming Belle Chasse

Hey Blake,

I've seen Belle Chasse Highway and the town of Belle Chasse on the West Bank. There's even a Belle Chasse Street in Gentilly. Who or what was Belle Chasse?

The Belle Chasse water tower.

Dear reader,

  You're right to ask "who" or "what" when it comes to Belle Chasse, because in this case the answer has a little bit of both. In French, belle chasse means "good hunt" or "good hunting." While you might think that was a fitting name for an undeveloped area of Plaquemines Parish early in its history, there's more to the story.

  According to historian J. Ben Meyer Sr.'s book Plaquemines: The Empire Parish, the West Bank community really is named for Col. Joseph Deville Degoutin Bellechasse. He was a City Council member and the first adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard. His plantation home on the West Bank, six miles below New Orleans, consisted of more than 5,000 acres of "the best sugar and rice land in the state," according to an 1891 ad announcing its sale.

  While Bellechasse may have been the namesake, Judah P. Benjamin was the plantation's most famous resident. The attorney purchased the land and its three-story plantation home in 1844 and relocated his family there from South Carolina. He imported new varieties of sugar cane and established an elaborate sugar manufacturing business on the site. About 10 years later, he sold the plantation. Benjamin went on to the career for which he is best known, as U.S. Senator and later Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

  As for his plantation, it was largely forgotten. The land was sold in the 1920s and the plantation house was demolished in 1960. A bell from the home is part of a monument to Benjamin that sits in front of the Belle Chasse Public Library on Belle Chasse Highway.

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