Albania was built by Charles and Euphemie Grevemberg between 1837 and 1842. Charles was the son of Francis Grevemberg who had been given a Spanish land grant by the King of Spain in 1780 for millitary service against the British during the war with England. The orignal West Indies style home built by Francis had burned down and this Greek Revival Beauty was built between 1837-1842. One of the most striking features is the three-story unsupported spiral stair which was made in France and shipped over by boat. It is the largest in the state. The home is one of the largest in Louisiana and is made of cypress and bricks completely milled on the property. The Grevembergs had five children: Louis, Agricole, Charlotte, Mathilde, Gabriel, and Charles Jr.
After the Civil War, the family hung on to the plantation until 1885 when a Jamaican of Jewish decent (a Yale classmate of Charles, Jr.) forclosed on the loan and created one of the most successful sugar cane businesses in the state, comprising over 6,000 acres and expanding its on site sugar mill operation. Isaac Delgado was also a wildly successful sugar broker who resided in New Orleans. He never lived at Albania but hired Alexandre Pierre Allain and his family to manage the sugar cane operations and live on the premises. When Mr. Delgado died in 1912, having never married or produced heirs, he left the entire sugar plantation to the City of New Orleans to establish the Delgado Central Trade School for the under-privileged. The Allain family continued to live on site and manage the sugar cane operation.
We would like to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Grevemberg descendants Joan Kaufman of California and Janelle Thompson of Grand Marais in creating this document. Their openness and generosity inspire us to work tirelessly in pursuit of racial reconciliation.
In the early 1930s the Mayor of New Orleans replaced the Allain family with his own kin who had lost their home in the depression. The Munson family ran the operation until 1957 when the city sold the home and surrounding eight acres. Both the Munson and Allain families still live in the area today. It is important to note that although neither family owned the property, their tenures were some of the happiest and most productive. The home was sold at public auction to the daughter of a former Lt. Governor from Jeanerette, Emily Cyr Bridges, who restored it and had the very first “plantation” tourist attraction in the area. It was when the home was sold it became known as Albania Mansion.
Miss Emily owned Albania Mansion until 2003 when she died, after promising to sell it to a young couple from New Orleans with more enthusiasm than money. Albania Mansion had fallen on extremely hard times and was in terrible condition. The property was instead sold to the celebrated New York artist, Hunt Slonem, who can be credited with saving the property and stabilizing it. After nearly twenty years, Mr. Slonem put Albania up for sale. This same no longer young couple discovered the property was available again. They visited only to say goodbye to their long-held dream, and instead discovered they were not truly ready to give up on that dream. Their restoration of Albania Mansion has taken a full year and included the addition of 9 and 1/2 bathrooms, modernizing the kitchen, central AC on two of the three floors, and returning an extraordinary third floor balcony to its place of pride overlooking the Bayou Teche. This balcony was destroyed some time prior to 1900, by a hurricane. The only pictorial record of its existence is an Adrien Persac painting from 1861.
A critical piece of history is that the city of New Orleans continues to own the surrounding sugarcane fields to this day. The acreage is managed by the Delgado-Albania Plantation Commission and is leased to local farmers who continue the important tradition of sugarcane farming. Income generated by the city still funds capital projects at Delgado Community College. This is a beautiful outcome which has turned an ugly time in our history into something positive which benefits so many who have been marginalized.
The Enslaved People of Albania Plantation
The history of Albania would be incomplete without discussing the important role of the enslaved people who built and worked the plantation. Upon the death of Charles Alexandre Grevemberg in 1851, records indicate his estate was entrusted to his wife Euphemie Fuselier which included 168 enslaved people, by 1860 the number of enslaved people totaled 210. They farmed sugar cane on over 6,000 acres of surrounding land. Within the enslavement there were biracial children born into slavery. Today, we have knowledge of biracial descendants who continue to live in nearby Grand Marais, a Creole community, in rural Jeanerette. Also, as far east as New Jersey, as far west as California and as far north as Illinois. We have been privileged to welcome some of them home to visit, thus far.
Their relationship to the property is a unique and complicated history. They have walked the floors their white ancestors have trod upon, and they have marveled at the magnificent architectural creation built by the hands of their enslaved ancestors.
We understand that owning this piece of history comes with a responsibility to be honest about the past. Nothing can be said to ameliorate the pain of slavery or justify its existence. The ugliness of the past cannot be overlooked, even as we embrace the beauty that was created and still stands today. In our visits with biracial family members the discussion always seems to turn to the idea that such beauty can come from such a dark place. The beautiful and the ugly are intertwined, just as they are in most of us. We take comfort in the fact that the surrounding sugar cane acreage is owned by the City of New Orleans and that for these last 115 years it has been used to increase access to higher education.
For educational resources or to find out more about the enslaved at Albania:
320 E. Main Street, New Iberia, LA at the Shadows
Visitors Center, 2nd Floor
Please note that the IAAHS Center for Research and Learning is open by appointment only so please reach out before making travel plans.
The Grevemberg House Museum
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm