clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Strange, Sordid Story of NOLA's Sultan Massacre House

New, 7 comments

Known formally as the Gardette-LePrete Mansion, this substantial New Orleans mansion is, according to the brokerbabble, one of the "the most photographed and admired properties" in the French Quarter. The listing fails to elaborate on why the property receives so much attention. Local lore has it that the Gardette-LePrete Mansion was once leased to the brother of a Turkish sultan who threw lavish soirees in the sprawling house, until one night the young Turk, his harem, and all the other revelers were supposedly murdered by parties unknown. The horrid crime was supposedly discovered after blood trickled down the front steps. The sultan's brother was said to have been found buried alive in the rear garden.

? The grand house was built for Philadelphia-born dentist Joseph Coulton Gardette in 1836. At the time, the house was painted pink and lacked the elaborate iron balconies, but enjoyed some prominence in the neighborhood due to its windowed half basement and elevated first floor. Just three years after its construction, the house was sold to wealthy Creole plantation owner Jean Baptiste LePrete, who added the wrap around balconies and outfitted the mansion as an opulent pied-à-terre for his family. The LePretes are said to have enjoyed the property until the Civil War put the family in dire financial straits. The Citizens Bank of New Orleans foreclosed on the property in 1878—ironic, considering the bank had been founded by prominent New Orleanians in the house's luxurious parlor.

? The dubious tale of rich renters and mass murder was supposed to have occured sometime in the late 1800s, but there is little evidence to suggest the horrific crime actually occurred. That said, by 1922, the building was in a dire state, having been neglected by its owners, but was apparently salvageable. In the 1940s, the New Orleans Academy of Art briefly set up shop on the premises, but was forced to close after many of the students were drafted into military service. By the '60s, the crumbling, once-grand mansion was inhabited by vagrants.

? In 1966, the house was purchased by investors Frank D'Amico and Anthony Vesich Jr., who set about restoring the house and dividing it into six independent apartments. In 1979, D'Amico's wife, who lived in the penthouse apartment at the time, described some unusual activity around the house to the Times-Picayune: "There at the foot of my bed, I thought I saw the figure of a man ... When the form suddenly seemed to move toward my side of the bed, I panicked and turned on the light on my night table. Imagine my surprise when there was no one there!" D'Amico went on to relay a legend about a strange tree in the backyard, growing out horizontally from beneath a later addition. "They say the 'sultan' was buried there ... It looks as if the tree is trying to crawl out from under the bricks and reach the street wall."


? Now for sale for the first time in 47 years, the Gardette-LePrete Mansion is asking $2.65M. Still split into multiple units, the house would require some serious renovation to restore it to its true former glory as a single-family mansion. The historic bones and the intriguing legends surrounding the house should make it a prime target for historic preservationists, provided they aren't spooked by the alleged paranormal activity.

· 716 Dauphine Street [Movato]
· Life with an 'Exotic Ghost' [Times-Picayune via NOLA.com]