River Road Museum at Shell Norco, 1916-1999
Norco Band (1920) at center. Clockwise starting with upper left: Schoolhouse and Sleeping Quarters for unmarried employees (1924); Original Chemical Plant Office (traincar 1953); Original Refinery Office and Recreational Clubhouse (1929); Main Gate (1925); Refinery (1929); First Gas Station at the Refinery on River Road (1933)
Tennis courts at the Shell refinery brought much enjoyment to plant employees. (Source: St. Charles Parish Resources and Facilities publication, 1948)
Road leading to Norco office. Taken May 16, 1926. Foster.
H2O wall at left. Good Hope Street in the Center. Szubinski Restaurant bottom right.
Destrehan Manor and Mexican Petroleum Refinery aerial view. Submitted by Louise Pfister.
An aerial view of New Orleans Refining Company in 1927. (Source unknown, currently part of the Suzanne Friloux collection)
The Norco Pharmacy on the River Road in Norco provided a workplace for pharmacist Ned Lowry and Shell Oil Company physician Dr. Paul Landry. The soda fountain was a favorite. In the 1930s, the upstairs was a boarding house for Shell workers. The building is still in commerce in the 21st Century.
Susie’s Kitchen Band was comprised of family members of the New Orleans Refinery Company Band, circa 1920s.
Mexican Petroleum Company School students pictured in 1917.
Construction of the Guard House at Shell Norco.
The 1920s version of the pick-up truck, a Model A Ford, was often used to bring workers to the Shell Refinery as shown in this Norco Street scene in the 1920s.
The GATX softball field in Good Hope. (Photo courtesy of Joan Weaver Becnel)
An aerial view of Cities Service and Export Company. Early 1900s.
Clarissé “Sis” Vitrano stands among Norco Village houses in 1927.
In 1862, Thomas J. Sellers (middle, back row) joined the Confederacy to serve with Ogden’s Calvary Regiment and returned to the German Coast after the war. The Sellers family moved to New Orleans around 1882 and returned to the West Bank of the German Coast to the Lone Star Plantation in 1889. The Davis Crevasse forced another move to Alice Plantation (named after his daughter) in Ama in 1893. “Colonel” Sellers died in 1915 and was buried in the family plot at St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Destrehan. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Herald)
From the cab of “Old Reliable” Bill Mongrue (left) and Ned Gauthreaux survey the refinery area. “Old Reliable” was the engine that shifted, pushed, and pulled Pan American Refinery railroad cars for decades. Bill Mongrue, head switchman, and Ned Gauthreaux, engineer, worked side by side at Pan American Refining Company in Destrehan for nearly three decades starting in 1927. Bill lived in Luling when he began working at the refinery in 1919 and rowed across the river by boat to Destrehan. When it was dark or foggy, his father would stand on the riverbank waving a lantern to guide him to the landing area. In later years, he crossed by ferry when service began. Ned lived above Lutcher and began working at Pan Am in 1921, moving later to switchman of the three-mile refinery track within which gondolas, flat and box cars were dropped off from the main line and repositioned for loading, unloading, and lineup for destination. “Old Reliable” was capable of moving from forty to fifty cars around the yard. There was never an accident or injury during their twenty-seven years of working together. (Photo courtesy of Kerney and JoAnn Mongrue)
Good Hope Plantation was the home of brothers Thomas and Edouard Oxnard and brother-in-law, Brice Similien LaBranche. Brice LaBranche served in the militia, was a member of Captain Trudeau’s Troop of Horse in the Battle of New Orleans, and served as a churchwarden and member of the Louisiana State Legislature. The Oxnard family remained involved in the sugar industry throughout the twentieth century. Good Hope was bought by Leon Sarpy after the Civil War. This site is now the town of Norco and home to Shell/Motiva. Note the many dwellings and support buildings (“dependencies”). Each plantation was designed to be as self-contained as possible.
The Trépagnier Plantation, which later became Myrtleland, was built by Francois Trépagnier. Myrtleland Plantation was sold to Thomas Sellers in 1876 and the area (present-day Norco) became known as Sellers. The Bonnet Carré Crevasse of 1882 brought about the end of the flourishing plantation but the house remained intact. Sellers and neighboring upriver Roseland Plantations were consolidated to form Diamond Plantation, which was later sold to Leon Godchaux in 1897. (Sketch courtesy of William E. Riecke, Jr., 1973)
The Trépagnier Plantation in Sellers, now Norco.
The Rost Plantation House in 1893 with Judge Emile Rost, son of Judge Pierre Rost, standing on the right and Mr. Destours on left. Photo taken by Mrs. George Don Luce in 1893. (Photo courtesy of Destrehan Plantation)
Pan American offered homes for its employees on the Destrehan Plantation grounds.
Portrait of Nicholas Noel Theodule Destrehan, b. 1793, d. 1848; fourth son of Jean-Nöel Destrehan; married Victoire Fortier (m.l), Henrietta Navarre (m.2); father of four children from second marriage; lived in Gretna; active in sugar cane industry; scholar, inventor, astronomer; reportedly drew blueprints for the lock system for the Harvey Canal. Served as Corporal in Battle of New Orleans; reputed to be an original developer of New Marigny (New Orleans) and Mechankham (Gretna) suburbs. Interred in St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery.
Ormond Plantation in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of Chip Zeringue)
The Ormond Plantation is one of the few houses that escaped fires, floods, and the Civil War. It was originally built in 1790 by Pierre Trépagnier on land granted to him by Spanish Governor Bernardo deGalvez for his service during the time of the American Revolution. In 1805, the property was acquired by Richard Butler, who named the plantation Ormond after an Irish ancestor, the Duke d’Ormonde. Upon his death, Ormond was deeded to Butler’s sister whose husband was naval officer Samuel McCutchon (Fr. Paret spelled it McCutcheon). Ormond Plantation adjoined the Little Red Church property, housed a post office, and had a large boat landing. Ormond is the only plantation included in Fr. Paret’s series of watercolors that survives into the twenty-first century.
Map of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Bayou Manchac in 1731 Reproduced by Helmut Blume, Schriften des Geographischen Instituts der Universität Kiel, vol. XVI, no.3
Jean-Nöel Destrehan. 1754-1823. (Photo courtesy of Destrehan Plantation)
Jean-Noël d’Estréhan de Beaupre (1754-1823). (Source: Louisiana Portraits, courtesy of Marguerite Larue de la Houssaye)
Home of M. O. LaBranche. La Branche Plantation. The German Zweig family surname was Gallicized to LaBranche. Octave was the son of Alexandre LaBranche. He was a member of Captain Trudeau’s Troop of Horse and a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans. Octave served as speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1827 to 1829. The LaBranche family and Fr. Paret enjoyed a warm relationship. The LaBranche’s owned several plantations. The house pictured was located in the present St. Rose area. Watercolor by Father Paret.
Judge Jean-Louis LaBranche Plantation. Judge Jean-Louis LaBranche was born in 1805 in St. Charles Parish. A major crevasse occurred on May 8, 1858, at this site, followed a few days later by another levee break in the same area. On February 13, 1869, the L’Avant Courseur reported, “The hard times, the family losses, the brutalities of subordinate officers who acted like military police in St. Charles during and after the war, and finally the recent death of his aged mother all took their toll on Judge LaBranche’s fragile constitution.” He died on February 7, 1869.
Estate of Jean Baptist LaBranche. After Widow J. B. LaBranche (nee Marie Trépagnier) died in 1868, her three sons, Judge Jean-Louis, Euphemond, and Cyprien, inherited the Jean Baptist LaBranche Plantation. By 1850, it was one of the German Coast’s most prominent and successful. Note the Spanish style dependency building. This is the site of the present-day Esperanza Plantation owned by Judge Edward A. Dufresne, Jr.