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Old 02-29-2020, 08:09 AM   #11
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Default Big Nana's House

Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
Based on the other info you can literally put it anywhere you want. Here's how it works if you need realism.
Thanks, this is great!

Some bulletpoints about specifics in the history I have in mind:
  • In 1940, Nana Lacoste was actually born in the house, the daughter of an African-American maid in service to the Lacoste family in the 1930s and 1940s. Until she was about seven, Nana lived in the servant's quarters of the Lacoste house, and she continued to come there often with her mother through her teen years.
  • Grand-père Lacoste grew up in the house as well, born in 1929. He, like the Lacostes who came before him, were white, Catholic and of good French-American stock, being perfectly capable of listing their ancestors all the way back to the first aristocrat to emigrate to the New World to invest in cotton, slaves and molasses (and for enthusiasts, further back into coats of arms and French history).
  • Grand-père Lacoste married a white woman of a good Catholic family in 1960, but the way Nana tells the story, that was his parents doing. They were already in love, but barred from marriage due to Louisiana law against interracial marriage.
  • In fact, Père Lacoste was born to Nana out of wedlock in 1958. Grand-père acknowledged him as his natural son in 1969 and took all the steps he could to ensure he'd have the status of his legal firstborn son and heir.
  • Grand-père Lacoste's first wife bore him two daughters, in 1962 and in 1964. In 1966, however, she suffered complications while carrying the couple's third child and both she and her unborn son died.
  • In 1969, Grand-père Lacoste shocked all his neighvours and relatives by marrying his long-time African-American mistress, Nana (at the time obviously not referred to that way, as she was not yet thirty and a famed beauty and entertainer in clubs African-Americans frequented). He also claimed her out-of-wedlock son as his and demanded the boy be legitimized as his firstborn and heir.
  • Given that this was a mere two years after the ban on interracial marriage was overturned by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, Louisiana still had such laws on the books and Grand-père and Nana had to get married out of state, as no Louisiana clergyman or public official was willing to perform such a marriage, this caused quite a stir among the lily-white, blood-line proud Lacostes.
  • Even by 1986, when Grand-père died in genteel and stubborn poverty (albeit owner of significant property, his income was not sufficient for upkeep), the rest of the Lacostes had by no means accepted the blackbird interloper in the family nest. Hence various relatives attempting to contest the will of Grand-père Lacoste, which provided Nana with full rights to inhabit the house as long as she lived (provided she didn't remarry) and made her a major heir, along with their illegitimate son, Père Lacoste.
  • The legal battles were bitterly contested and extended into the 1990s, but ended with Nana victorious and unassailable in occupation until her death.
  • In the 21st century, Nana uses only a fraction of the old house, with the rest dusty and mothballled, if not worse.

Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
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.
Well, just about the only location that I know has buildings with the appropriate look in New Orleans is St. Charles Avenue, but I'm hoping to find at least one structure with the right appearance in a less expensive location. Or more accurately, I'm hoping to find such a house (ideally mansion) somewhere that might not have been very easy to sell for a fortune in the first part of the 20th century, until about the 1960s. I'm satisfied with why the generations that I've mentioned haven't sold, but I still need to explain why the preceding two or three generations didn't.

Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
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'm 100% on board with a Historical Society having demonstrated all kinds of interest in the house and grounds and constituting one factor it was not easy to sell in the 20th century, especially if this interest was due to a creepy cemetary, mausoleum or the like.

Really, rumours and apocryphal legends about all kinds of burials on Lacoste land should be absolutely rife. The house should be a regular feature in neighbourhood ghost stories.

Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
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.
"Families are always rising and falling in America."

DiCaprio's character in The Departed says that, in a charming Boston Irish accent, but as far as I know, despite the attribution, Nathaniel Hawthorne never did. It's not a bad summation of some of his work, however.

Originally Posted by bocephus View Post
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.
Given the great social and economic changes since the 18th century, it's more exception than the rule for a given family to have a similar socioeconomic status as they did more than 200 years ago. And, as you say, some of them held on to homes with a lot of significance to the family even as their fortunes dwindled.

However, the fewer real estate developers who would have pestered the family in the 20th century with offers that would instantly change the lives of everyone with a stake, well, the more plausible that they'd retained the house.

I want significant barriers to realizing any great profit from a sale to have been present through much of the 20th century (especially until the 1960s), such as the house being in an area that was not sought-after at that time, there being remains on the lot potentially of great interest to a Historical Society, the necessary renovations that would assure profitable sale being outside the budget of the heirs at the time or some combination of factors.

One thing though, for mystical, in-story reasons, I kind of need the ownership of the house and grounds to rest firmly with legal Lacoste heirs, whoever those turn out to be after Nana passes and all the legal wrangling is done. So while a foundation or trust is a great idea, it should have been something that was eventually broken and ownership should revert back to heirs (the more eccentric, baroque and Gothic the inheritance conditions, the better).
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