You’ll walk a path of misty truths, Moving you where they will to, The road where you’ll likely be, Living out this Mystery. Michael Brown  —

Philip St

Philip St. circa 1920 —

An Aside to the Story……….

The original structure was headquarters for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. When the war was over, it sat empty and abandoned for many years.  The advent of the reconstruction era allowed renovation to begin, porches were added, palms planted, the property was sold.

My paternal grandmother fell in love with the house while she was still a girl, making a mental promise that when she married that house would be hers.  The house itself developed a long history of being a property of contention, haunted by confederate ghosts, and other entities, bringing anger and mistrust to those who dwelt within its walls. My grandmother could not care less what was said, the ghosts were welcomed guests, she only knew that the on day she married fortune smiled and that house went up for sale.

Unfortunately, there were other forces at work. Her parents did not approve of two things: her marriage to the Scott/Irishman she fell in love with and knowing her desires to have that particular house.  The stout German family did everything in their power to prevent the marriage, but the couple secretly left town one day and eloped, eliminating that problem.  They also did everything in their power to prevent her from buying that particular house. Their reasons remain unknown to this day.

Strong headed and determined my grandmother was not one to be denied her wishes, so she contacted her husband’s cousin in Mississippi, marking arrangements with him to quietly buy the house.  Once the paperwork was settled she could then purchase the property without her family’s knowledge.  The family of course, found out the day she moved in; she would never be forgiven.  “This house”, they would say, was not meant for you.”  A family phrase I would later hear more often that I would wish.

By the time Capitán’s youngest sister married all the older siblings had already married and left home so she and her husband moved upstairs in the big house creating an apartment, which they rented from my grandparents.

My grandmother died only 3 years after my grandfather and in settling the estate, my aunt and uncle wanted to purchase the house from their siblings.  Capitán headed the campaign against this, wanting the property sold and the profits divided.  Following in the steps of her mother, my aunt secretly gained the confidence of her brother-in-law who at the time was a powerful judge.  He arranged for the house to be sold on the open market, reducing the price for a quick sale, and to be purchased by a trusted associate. This pleased all the siblings who received their share of the estate per the Napoleonic Laws of Louisiana.  A month later, the property was quietly sold to my aunt and uncle.  To say this caused a furor among the siblings would be an understatement, their anger about this affair would last an entire lifetime.  That house was not meant for you…they said and the bone of contention was picked clean once again.

My aunt and uncle would live happily in this house for the next 40 years or so with another sister who never married living upstairs.  They would renovate it, keep it perfect, live a life beyond their means and almost lose it to 11 years of unpaid federal taxes.

No one knew about this last item except me and the other aunt who lived upstairs.  My aunt never shared the information with anyone else.  Arrangements had been made with the IRS to ignore the lien and allow my aunt and uncle, because of their age at the time, to remain in the house for the rest of their natural lives on the condition the house never be sold, and if it was, the IRS would then seize all profits.

One sister came to live out the last of her days in the house, as did another brother. Then the aunt that lived upstairs died and the upstairs was divided into two apartments and when my aunt was in her late 70’s my dear uncle died.

Over the years I had formed a deep and abiding relationship with this aunt and uncle. I became closer to my aunt who took on the role of a pseudo mother. This was completely unacceptable to Capitán and other New Orleans family members including my siblings and my mother, and for unknown reasons they all worked consistently and diligently to turn my aunt against me. It would take them a lifetime and Alzheimer’s to succeed.

The death of my uncle left my aunt very alone inspire of numerous family members ready to move her into smaller dwellings and take over the house.  The family began chewing harder at the edges of her sorrow wanting to take control. Adding to the pressure, my uncle’s sister’s boyfriend of 25 years died leaving her with vast amounts of money and property.  My uncle’s sister’s will left everything to my Aunt and my Aunt’s will left everything to her remaining brother: Capitán. Not wanting to wait until the death of the two women, Capitán decided it should all be his now.  My aunt not knowing how to protect herself and her sister-in-law called me, as the only one she could trust, to come and help.  Having made a promise to my uncle many years before that I would always be there in time of need, I had no choice but to go.

My arrival in New Orleans would start a bonfire that would turn into an inferno that would lead to an epiphany that would change my life…….all because of this wonderful old house on Philip Street and those who lived in it.

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Comments
  1. WHAT a story!!

    RS to ignore the lean (it’s lien). Delete this part of comment. 😉

    Like

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