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Old 02-28-2020, 07:20 AM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

I'm looking for forumites who have real-life Area Knowledge of New Orleans, either from personal experience, friends or family, research or just an abiding interest in fiction set in the city. I'm not setting an adventure in the city yet, but it will eventually happen and until then, details about New Orleans are relevant for the background of one PC, two crucial NPCs and at least eight other NPCs already established.

For background purposes, I should mention that this is for an ongoing urban fantasy / occult mystery / supernatural technothriller / Monster Hunter campaign, Caribbean by Night.* In it, the PCs work as highly capable** occult troubleshooters, or 'Night Riders' (Monster Hunter vigilantes), for the Galveston-born centenarian billionaire J.R. Kessler. Their area of responsibility encompasses the entire Caribbean and the surrounding region, including much of the Gulf of Mexico and the US Gulf Coast.

Hubs of activity and concentrations of resources, personnel and allies for their influential Patron include: Galveston and the Greater Houston area; Beaumont (Jefferson County) and Anahuac (Chambers County) in East Texas; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS; Mobile, AL; various Florida locations; Nassau, the Bahamas; Dominica; St. Lucia; and Trinidad.

Two PCs are from Louisiana (Atchafalaya Basin and New Orleans, respectively), while the others are more or less foreign transplants to this very much southern milieu (Rhodesia by way of the French Foreign Legion, Denmark by way of Los Angeles and a graduate student from San Fransisco).

So, without further elaboration, let's start with a question that might end up mattering next session if New Orleans born Lucien Lacoste (PC) decides to use some weeks of campaign downtime to drop in on his Nana Lacoste, a formidable Creole / African-American / gens de couleur libres lady with a reputation in certain circles as someone not to be crossed under any circumstances. In an earlier New Orleans, she'd be called a 'Voodoo queen'.

In any case, Nana Lacoste is a widow who married into an old French Creole (white, i.e, original meaning of 'Creole') New Orleans family shortly after Loving v. Virginia (after having carried out a long affair with the son and heir before they could legally marry). The Lacostes were very rich in the 18th century, decaying, but still aristocratic in the 19th century and struggled to hang onto at least refined middle-class respectability in the 20th century.

What they did manage to retain was the family estate, a sprawling, outdated, impossible to maintain, Southern Gothic decaying mansion / townhouse. I'm thinking large enough so that there are rooms that no one visits and decaying enough so that it would take months, if not years, as well as hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, to restore every room to full habitability. Certainly no air conditioning and, if possible, electricity and running water only added a long time after it was built and only to parts of the house.

Brief notes on family history.

Question the First: So, what is a good neighbourhood in New Orleans for a sizable house and even possibly some grounds around it, that could realistically have been hard enough to sell for the latter half of the 20th century to make it at least somewhat plausible for a middle-class family of fading gentility to have retained it instead of selling it and all becoming instant millionaires just from the price of the lot, regardless of the condition of the house?

I get the impression that St. Charles Avenue has plenty of the kind of creepy, Southern Gothic, vine-covered, decaying mansions I'm thinking about, but I'm concerned that no matter how much rebuilding would have been necessary for a new buyer, the market value of a sizable lot there would have been so enormous in the 1980s or 1990s that it becomes impossible to justify not selling it.

Where in New Orleans could such a building be located while still keeping the value somewhat in check? I don't mind it being valued at up to maybe half a million or so today, if it absolutely has to be, but I'd balk at the $2-3 millions that seem 'normal' for sizable houses on St. Charles Avenue.

Locating it in a neighbourhood that is prone to flooding and storm damage seems like it would do the job of plausibly keeping the value down, but I would like it if it could include an ancestral tomb, an overgrown garden and all the other accoutrements of a proper Southern Gothic mansion.

I'd love it if someone could suggest an actual townhouse / mansion visible in Google Maps that I could fictionalize into the Lacoste family home.

Q2) Best Neighborhood for Voodoo Beliefs Between 1920-1980?
Q3) Effects of occult things becoming real on crime and the underworld in New Orleans?

*The world is mostly realistic, except for secret supernatural occurances that occur in specific times and places, starting with a handful of occasions in the 1980s and gradually becoming more common. Mana ranges from No Mana in well-lit, modern office buildings or laboratories in cities full of skeptical secular people to Very Low Mana in much of the world at night (-8 to -10) to Low Mana (-3 to -7) in certain areas of the world, dubbed Vile Vortices, ley lines or Places of Power. Individual Places of Power within confluences of ley lines and/or one of the regional Vile Vortices might approach Normal Mana (0 to -2), but usually with some specific flavor of magic and generally only at specific times.
**They are all close to peak human capabilities (often aided by supernatural gifts) and, in addition to that, have abilities that no normal person can match. As such, they are 1,000+ Supers with an occult flavor, albeit ones existing in a world without lenient, handwavy genre conventions to make their vigilante activities easier (though good relations with law enforcement and 100 points in Patron certainly helps).
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Old 02-28-2020, 08:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

Two quick questions that apply to my answer.

Is this the home where Nana lives? Are you against the idea of other living Lacostas that are not in the Louisiana area?
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Old 02-28-2020, 08:58 AM   #3
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Default The House of Lacoste

Quote:
Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
Two quick questions that apply to my answer.

Is this the home where Nana lives? Are you against the idea of other living Lacostas that are not in the Louisiana area?
This is where Nana Lacoste lives, yes. It's the house her late husband grew up in and while she is not the only heir, her husband's will did provide for her continued inhabitation in it while she lived.

There are other living Lacostes, some of them established in play as living in New Orleans, some as yet undetermined. For example, Lucien Lacoste (PC) has a living father, Nana's son, who is a Captain in the NOPD. Can't recall Captain Lacoste's first name at the moment, nor, indeed, have any other family members received first names as of yet, so I'll refer to them by what Lucien Lacoste (PC) might call them. E.g. Père Lacoste for the PC's father.

There are also aunts and numerous cousins. Two of the aunts and their families are especially worthy of note, given that they are the offspring of Grand-père Lacoste's first marriage and spent decades feuding with Nana Lacoste and disputing her late husband's will, which prevented them from selling the house while Nana Lacoste lived. Lucien Lacoste has cordial relationships with a number of relatives, but aside from his father and grandmother, no one has been mentioned so far in the player's background material as particularly close.

Any number of kin and cousins, especially distant ones, might have moved away from New Orleans or Louisiana altogether at some point.
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Old 02-28-2020, 10:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

Lots of possible reasons why they wouldn't sell even if the money involved would make it attractive:
- "this is our family house" + stubbornness
- inheritance feud : cannot sell until every heir agrees
- house is an historical monument and cannot be destroyed or visibly altered. Add asbestos for added fun.
- land and house will revert to the state at the death of current owner in exchange for a tax or inheritance tax agreement.
- mystical pact, although that is unlikely given your timeline.
- unpleasant secret buried beneath the house. (A mass grave, ...)
- ...

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Old 02-28-2020, 11:03 AM   #5
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

House is owned by a foundation, so she can't sell it. During the 1920s, one of the Locasta men set up a foundation to manage what remained of the family properties in the surrounding area. The Foundation is a "non-proft" and dumps it's earnings into a local church.
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Old 02-28-2020, 11:09 AM   #6
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Default The House of Lacoste

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Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
Lots of possible reasons why they wouldn't sell even if the money involved would make it attractive:
Oh, absolutely, but given that the Lacostes could have used the money from at least the Reconstruction era onward, I have to account for quite a lot of potential heirs and why they didn't press for selling it at different eras. And while many of your excellent explanations will hold true for individual generations, it will also help my general plausibility if the money involved was significant, but not necessarily fundamentally life-changing for every single potential heir, even if the division did not favor their side of the family.

That is, it's better for me if the house is not quite worth the ca $6 million that the most expensive St. Charles Avenue mansions could fetch these days, but rather something an order of magnitude less. Of course, I can be somewhat flexible on the point of present day value, if it gets me a very suitable real-world building to use, as long as it would have been at least somewhat hard to sell for life-changing money for everyone involved before the 1980s or so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- "this is our family house" + stubbornness
Indeed. I imagine that this held true for quite a number of generations in the 19th century, as well as possibly one or two at the beginning of the 20th.

I'm not quite prepared to explain the survival of the house in family hands by an unbroken line of Lacostes whose Southern pride in family and lineage outweighed all other considerations. Not throughout 150-200 years, perhaps. You always get the occasional generation where the values of the parents aren't held as solidly by the heirs and descendants.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- inheritance feud : cannot sell until every heir agrees
Yes, this is in fact my preferred explanation for why the house was not sold in the 1980s and early 1990s, as the families descended from the first wife of Grand-père Lacoste disputed the will which made the house impossible to sell while his second wife desired to live there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- house is an historical monument and cannot be destroyed or visibly altered. Add asbestos for added fun.
If absolutely necessary in order to get me a suitably cool-looking Southern Gothic mansion inside New Orleans, I will consider it. Ideally, however, the eponymous House of Lacoste has not been visibly altered for well over a century due to lack of money and desire, not an external constraint on renovations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- land and house will revert to the state at the death of current owner in exchange for a tax or inheritance tax agreement.
I suppose the threat of this could constitute an adventure, but the intention is that after Nana Lacoste's death, there will be a contentious struggle between all potential heirs that most of them fervently hope will end in the house finally being sold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- mystical pact, although that is unlikely given your timeline.
Certainly, generations of Lacostes made the decision not to sell the house in the approximately century between 1890-1990 without any influence from genuine mystical forces, though some of them might well have been superstitious.

Of course, there is no telling what might motivate Nana Lacoste these days and the house was certainly built early enough for there to be true occult secrets involved...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
- unpleasant secret buried below the house. (A mass grave, ...)
- ...
It's a Southern Gothic mansion. Unpleasant, unspoken family secrets go without saying.
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Old 02-28-2020, 01:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

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Originally Posted by Verjigorm View Post
House is owned by a foundation, so she can't sell it. During the 1920s, one of the Locasta men set up a foundation to manage what remained of the family properties in the surrounding area. The Foundation is a "non-proft" and dumps it's earnings into a local church.
I would say it's in a Trust such that only a Lacoste heir (has the last name) may inherit it or buy it from the Trust. No one is willing to let another inherit it without receiving their fair-share, so inheritance is out of the question now, with so many descendants of the name. But, no one can afford to buy the thing outright given the market price, and the Trust has dwindling funds, which has meant a lack of maintenance on the estate, which also adds to the burden of anyone of the family purchasing the estate. The market price, plus cost of repairs, keep it out of family hands, but once the Trust runs out, it can be sold to anyone.

That fits what I know of US/Louisiana law (not much really), and suits the situation requirements fairly well. However, like all sensible people living in Louisiana, I avoid New Orleans like the plague, so I can't point you to a specific estate to use. If it's in a Trust though, it doesn't matter if it is on St. Charles and worth $10 million, it can't be sold unless those conditions are met, and there could be so many heirs that, once divided, the amount of money each gets is relatively small.

I don't know how the New Orleans real estate market has fared, post-Katrina, but here, south of Lafayette, prices are barely down from their over-priced 2005 values post-Rita, when they jumped steeply (about +50%). I'd imagine it's worse there, given the gentrification of the city that's happened since - or so I've read and seen reported.
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Old 02-28-2020, 01:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post

Question the First: So, what is a good neighbourhood in New Orleans for a sizable house and even possibly some grounds around it, that could realistically have been hard enough to sell for the latter half of the 20th century to make it at least somewhat plausible for a middle-class family of fading gentility to have retained it instead of selling it and all becoming instant millionaires just from the price of the lot, regardless of the condition of the house?

I get the impression that St. Charles Avenue has plenty of the kind of creepy, Southern Gothic, vine-covered, decaying mansions I'm thinking about, but I'm concerned that no matter how much rebuilding would have been necessary for a new buyer, the market value of a sizable lot there would have been so enormous in the 1980s or 1990s that it becomes impossible to justify not selling it.

Where in New Orleans could such a building be located while still keeping the value somewhat in check? I don't mind it being valued at up to maybe half a million or so today, if it absolutely has to be, but I'd balk at the $2-3 millions that seem 'normal' for sizable houses on St. Charles Avenue.
Based on the other info you can literally put it anywhere you want. Here's how it works if you need realism.

Quote:
When the husband died Nana was living there, and the Will stipulated that she be provided for and there were other more lucrative assets that could be quickly liquidated and spread around (hence gone quickly). So the house wasn't an immediate concern for the parts of the family that just wanted to cash out.

Because Nana was living in the house already she was allowed to stay (friendly local judge or some such), but the ownership of the house is locked up in legal wrangling. It has been agreed that barring a significant change in one of the parties status the house is held in trust till either Nana decides she's willing to move (allowing a sale), Nana dies (allowing a sale) or some major event hits the "other side" of the family (defaulting ownership to Nana).

Nana cant use the house to derive income (IE make a shop in the Garage, lease part of the land out or give tours for money) and all upkeep is out of her pocket so long she lives there.

Nana is only using a portion of the house ground floor and maybe the first room at the top of the stairs (if she wants an upstairs bedroom). The rest of the house is being let go as long as there are no major structural problems. It hasnt been renovated since Nana moved in with her husband and they had electric updated, this was in the mid 60s. Even that renovation was mostly just adding some plumbing, electrical for simple items like icebox and fans, perhaps extend to some porch lights. The outside was due to be updated but pretty much just got a fresh coat of paint and a new roof before money from the extensive grounds restoration ate up more than was expected. So there hasnt been any major construction since the 20's-30's and certainly not since the 60s.

The land and the history are worth a lot, but maintenance of the grounds and house itself have become increasingly more costly. In fact Nana might be getting to the point where the City would start to apply legal leverage to get the grounds brought back into a more presentable state.

There is a cemetery and Mausoleum on the grounds and rumors that there is a historical burial ground for runaway slaves, but as yet they have not been able to get permission from Nana to investigate and the records arent conclusive enough without actual proof. If the house were to be sold this would become a factor as well, any prospective owners might have to deal with the Historical society before a sale could be finalized.
Using this as a background you can pick, pretty much, any house you want in just about any location. Unfortunately I don't have the background in New Orleans that your seeking so I cant point out a specific house. Even one with a lot of land around it. Remember that in the USA land isn't as costly or hard to come by as in Europe, locations go up and down in value based on local developments, but it isn't hard to just look elsewhere for a better deal.

Historical sites become very tricky to sell as well because the govt cant just take land, however they can make it difficult and costly to try and do anything with it other than restore it. Historical Societies can be as bad as they are good, many people in historical areas see them as an expensive plague.

I can tell you that the story is actually much more common in the USA than you might think. Old families change over 2-3 generations typically and all but one branch of the family goes back to middle class in less than 100years.

Basically its really easy for this situation to occur. Typically one of the last things families that invest in their history let go of is the Ancestral Homestead, especially in a place like New Orleans where deep roots mean something in some circles.
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Old 02-29-2020, 12:40 AM   #9
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Default Re: New Orleans Area Knowledge Questions

I'd use google maps to look in the neighborhoods around Tulane and Loyola.
Check out Versailles Blvd north of Tulane's baseball stadium and Fontainebleau Dr west of Versailles east of South Carrolton Ave.

The main issue is the Southern Gothic Mansions are mostly on St. Charles itself.
The Garden district (and most of uptown) is just so expensive that every shotgun house there rent's for an absurd amount of money.

I think, unless you're running a game for locals you can get away with some poetic license. The simple fact is that area is taken up by long time residents or student rentals (which inheritors of long time residents realize they could milk for loads of money if they rented).

I've lived 10 minutes away from New Orleans for over 47 years and used to gig in every dive bar uptown in the early to mid 90's.
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Old 02-29-2020, 04:01 AM   #10
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Default Lacoste Foundation or Trust

Quote:
Originally Posted by Verjigorm View Post
House is owned by a foundation, so she can't sell it. During the 1920s, one of the Locasta men set up a foundation to manage what remained of the family properties in the surrounding area. The Foundation is a "non-proft" and dumps it's earnings into a local church.
While plausible, this doesn't seem like it would allow the backstory of feuding heirs in the 1980s and the early 1990s, nor the potential for drama when or if Nana dies and the legal battles start again.

Unless, of course, there is some sort of legal mechanism for dissolving the trust or foundation, with complex inheritance issues about who gets what if this is successfully done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by namada View Post
I would say it's in a Trust such that only a Lacoste heir (has the last name) may inherit it or buy it from the Trust. No one is willing to let another inherit it without receiving their fair-share, so inheritance is out of the question now, with so many descendants of the name. But, no one can afford to buy the thing outright given the market price, and the Trust has dwindling funds, which has meant a lack of maintenance on the estate, which also adds to the burden of anyone of the family purchasing the estate. The market price, plus cost of repairs, keep it out of family hands, but once the Trust runs out, it can be sold to anyone.

That fits what I know of US/Louisiana law (not much really), and suits the situation requirements fairly well. However, like all sensible people living in Louisiana, I avoid New Orleans like the plague, so I can't point you to a specific estate to use. If it's in a Trust though, it doesn't matter if it is on St. Charles and worth $10 million, it can't be sold unless those conditions are met, and there could be so many heirs that, once divided, the amount of money each gets is relatively small.

I don't know how the New Orleans real estate market has fared, post-Katrina, but here, south of Lafayette, prices are barely down from their over-priced 2005 values post-Rita, when they jumped steeply (about +50%). I'd imagine it's worse there, given the gentrification of the city that's happened since - or so I've read and seen reported.
The problem isn't so much justifying why the house isn't sold now.

I'm pretty happy with the plausibility of it not having been sold since the 1980s because of the inheritance feud and then, when that was finally settled in Nana's favour, the fact that any sale would have involved the feuding parties having to agree on something. Hell, Nana could plausibly be refusing to sell out of sheer bloosy-mindedness by now.

No, I'm principally concerned about justifying why none of the Lacoste heirs in the first part of the 20th century, up to about the 1960s, sold the house. Even if some of them held old-fashioned views about selling off their ancestral home, there were clearly Lacoste heirs struggling to keep up a lifestyle beyond their means. Hell, in the 20th century, men in the family sometimes had no option other than go into trade, like doctors and lawyers and such, which obviously was a great shame. If the house could have been sold for an absolute fortune at any point in the 20th century, it would have been that much more of a temptation than if it was only worth a modest fortune.

I don't have any idea about the historical New Orleans real estate market. The St. Charles Avenue mansions go for huge sums in the modern day, as I can easily look up online, but was there a thriving market for them in the Roaring 20s or the Swinging 60s?
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