What is the story of the Marigny mansion? What ever happened to it?
Well, back in the days when the word "preservation" was used by women when they discussed peaches and beans, the house was torn down and a power plant was erected in 1895-96. But the story of the mansion itself is overshadowed by the story of the man who occupied it.
The Marigny Mansion, long a landmark below Esplanade Avenue at the river end of Elysian Fields, had once belonged to Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville: an aristocrat, a duelist, a businessman, a politician, a lover, a bon viveur -- a Creole's Creole.
Bernard's family had come to the New World even before there was a Louisiana, and by the late 1700s, Bernard's father was New Orleans' biggest property holder. His son Bernard, born in New Orleans in 1785, grew up quite spoiled. In fact, a houseguest of the family during Bernard's youth was the Duc d'Orleans, later King Louis Philippe.
When, at age 16, Bernard's parents died, his halcyon days of hunting, riding, dueling and dancing were interrupted when his family shipped him off to Pensacola, Fla., to learn business from a strict Scotsman guardian. After an incident with a Florida beauty, the Scotsman sent Bernard packing.
Next, the family decided to try England. Bernard loved England, especially because it was so close to France. He embraced all things English and French, especially the Parisian girls. So back home he went. And he was still only 18.
It is commonly believed in New Orleans that Bernard brought home a dice game called "Hazard." He taught it to his Creole pals, among whom it became wildly popular. However, because the game was associated with the French, whom the English called "Johnny Crapauds," the Americans first referred to it as "Johnny Crapaud's" game. Eventually, as popularity for the game grew among the Americans, the name was shortened to "crapaud's" and later to "craps." However, Hazard was played in England and France at least as early as the 14th century, and a more likely theory is that the name of the popular American dice game of craps derives from the nickname "crabs" for the cast 1-1 in Hazard.
After two years of reckless living and huge gambling losses, Marigny was forced to sell some of his vast plantation. In 1808, he began to subdivide part of his plantation nearest the city and sell the lots. So began Faubourg Marigny, a separate community with separate streets. And what streets they were! Marigny had a real gift for naming them. Among others, there were Elysian Fields, Bagatelle, Antoine, Peace, History, Good Children, Great Men, Victory, Love and Craps. Of course, they were all originally in French. Except for Elysian Fields, they have all been renamed.
By the time Bernard was 23, he had been married and widowed and was the father of two sons. However, he remarried a Spanish beauty who gave him five more sons.
In 1829, Marigny began his project across Lake Pontchartrain. After acquiring thousands of acres, he built two large houses, roads and walks and named his new place Fontainebleau for the summer chateau of the French King. Friends arrived by the boatload and were treated to a splendid time of eating, drinking, hunting and fishing. So Bernard planned an entire town around his vacation spot and gave it his name: Mandeville.
Back in the city, two developers -- Samuel J. Peters and James H. Caldwell -- were making plans for Marigny's new subdivision. This was the direction in which the new city would grow, and these wealthy Americans wanted to buy the property. Being heavily in debt, Marigny thought it a good idea to sell. However, more than once Madame Marigny refused to appear to sign the papers. The Americans were furious, and Marigny lost a golden opportunity because the city grew Uptown. Life was never the same for Bernard. His debts continued to mount, he lost most of his land, he moved out of his mansion, and on a cold February morning in 1868, he slipped, fell and hit his head. Within a few minutes, he was dead.