Squandered Heritage Vintage

Demolition by chainsaw Babin/Africa Plantation

I received a disturbing e mail this morning that the Babin / African Museum was demolished using a chainsaw.

The house as it stood is near the very bottom of the page link

The Africa Plantation House, located in Modeste, Louisiana is another building of African American significance in the Donaldsonville area. It was originally known as the Babin Place, then purchase by a benevolent organization called the Grand General Independent Order of Brothers and Sisters of Charity North American, South America, Liberia and Adjacent Islands in 1911. The organization renamed the farm the Africa Plantation. The organization raised crops to feed the poor and were advocates promoting good health, good hygiene, and self sufficiency in the black community. The organization advocated against alcoholism and indolence. Dr. John H. Lowery, one of the first African American doctors in Donaldsonville purchased the farm in 1933. Later, it became the home of Leonard Julien, who invented the sugar cane planting machine in 1964.

Here is a recent photo of what it looks like after it was demolished.

Babin Place/Africa Plantation

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • debi

    WHY? Wasn’t this a historic landnark?
    Can this really happen?

  • Becky

    Who demolished it??? Chainsaw?!

  • Abby

    Why on earth was it demolished? I thought it was supposed to be part of a River Road heritage museum or something.

    I took a ton of pictures of it in 1999-2000; probably still have them somewhere.

  • Justin

    A prayer for the dying.

    I thank God I saved one myself.

  • Anthony

    Much effort was put forth to raise money to save the Africa House, but none materialized.

  • Heather

    The River Road African American Museum was the current owner of this property. It was a rare surviving example of bousillage(mud and moss) nogging between heavy-timber frame construction.

  • De`Yolanda Lowery

    Dr. John H. Lowery was my great-grandfather. I had no idea that this happened!

  • De Yolanda Lowery so sorry that this is where you had to discover this.

    Seems there are a number of things amiss at the Babin/Africa Plantation.

  • Mike

    Abby would you have some of those photos of the Africa house to share?

  • Cindy Lowery Sayles

    I’m De’Yolanda Lowery’s sister and great-granddaughter of Dr. Lowery, if you could please post the photos you have of the plantation I would greatly appreciate it. If this is something you are able to do, I thank you in advance.

  • Mike W.

    Hi Cindy! I managed to get a few photos from Kathe Hambrick at the River Road Museum in Donaldsonville. Send me an email and I can forward them to you and anyone else who may be interested.

  • Cindy Lowery Sayles

    Hi Mike,
    please forward the photos to sixless1@sbcglobal.net – thank you so much for doing this. God Bless! 🙂

  • I hope this will help clear up the issue about the disassembling of the Babin Place/ Africa Plantation (ca. 1830). First of all, it is interesting that so many show concern about this building that sat for 30 years unrecognized by the public. As the founder of the River Road African American Museum, I spent over ten years researching and trying save this valuable historic structure. Not only was this the home of the Black inventor, Leonard Julien, but it was owned by an organization know as the General Grand Independent Order of Brothers and Sisters of Love and Charity: North America, South America, Liberia and Adjacent Islands. The members of this group purchased the 450 acre farm in 1911, Lower y purchased it in the 1930’s. Dr. Lowery never lived in the house. Mr. Julien managed the sugarcane and rice farm. Dr. Lowery was an officer in the organization previously mentioned. I have researched the history of this property and had numerous historic architects look at the structure.
    Here are some of the facts:
    The building was donated to the Museum, after two years of investigating its history. “If you can move it, you can have it”.
    The Julien family helped salvage the original french windows, the bell and much of the cypress.
    The Africa Plataion was being vandalized, as it is in a very rural area. Most of the valuable cypresss was stolen.
    In order to save what remained after hurricane Gustab, the Museum’s board of directors approved its it dissassemblage and we salvaged as much of the original cypress beams, wooden pegs and square headed nails as possible.
    The cost for movimg the house was over $60,000.
    The cost for restoring the house, according to the professional historic architects (the best in the state of Louisiana) would have been well over a million dollars.
    If anyone involved in this blog would like to make a contribution to theMuseum to presrve what is left of our history on the River Road…please feel free to do so by logging on to our website http://www.africanmaericanmuseum.org
    The history has been documented by the museum.

  • Mike

    Thank you very much for this Kathe. I wonder if it might be possible to put together a website listing the buildings of historic significance in the area and what it would cost to preserve them? This is done elsewhere with varying measures of success. I volunteer my time to put together and maintain the site. Someone would have to document the buildings, get the estimates and forward them for uploading to the site.