The Godchaux-Reserve House Historical Society held a ceremony November 30 celebrating a major accomplishment for the society — the completion of a new roof and stabilization of the badly worn home that was once the heart of the St. John the Baptist Parish’s 18th century sugar industry. Due to inclement weather, the ceremony was held in the original Leon Godchaux High School building, next door to the Godchaux-Reserve House at West 10th Street and River Road. David Fennelly, chairman of Associated Terminals in Reserve, attended to announce that the company will donate $100,000 towards the restoration effort. St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom also attended and congratulated the society on the progress of the restoration and encouraged the group to continue on its forward path. She also talked about the St. John Parish Historic Committee, which was recently formed and will work on a plan to submit to the Parish Council to restore the house and other historic structures in the community. The committee also will provide information on state certification as a Government Main Street Program, which will open doors in revitalizing portions of the community to preserve history and create economic opportunities. She also spoke about the levee bike path nearing completion at West 10th Street and a bike crossing at the house.
Among other guests were Lennix Madere, Council, District III; Marvin Perrilloux, Council Chairman; Larry Snyder, Council District VI; Gerald Keller, GRHHS Board; Mike Hoover, GRHHS Board; Julia Remondet, GRHHS Board; Gary Smith Jr. State Senator; Larry Sorapuru, Council Div. A; Paul Aucoin, Executive Director of Port of South Louisiana; Judge Sterling Snowdy, GRHHS Board; and Mike Hanley, GRHHS Board.
The society began reviving its efforts last year to restore the home that historians estimate was built about 1764 by European settler Jean Baptiste Laubel and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. The home has become badly worn from weather, age and neglect over the years. Stephen Guidry, president of the society, said the group hopes to repair the house with private donations and grants. The home and surrounding property were the central point of activity for a community of about 100 homes built by the Leon Godchaux family in the early 1900s to house employees of the Godchaux sugar refinery, which was sold in 1956. The historical society plans to rebuild the house to serve as a visitor center, museum and a facility for catered events for use by businesses, industries and people in the community, Guidry said. The museum will trace the history of the sugar industry in general, and the Reserve plantation and its individual families, in particular.