1811/Kid Ory Historic House closing its doors on October 1

Published 11:56 am Friday, September 2, 2022

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LAPLACE — The 1811/ Kid Ory Historic House will close its doors on October 1, but museum founder John McCusker is hopeful that the collection will one day be able to reopen to the public.

Located in on Highway 628 in LaPlace, the former Andry/Woodland plantation home opened its doors in early 2021 and was very successful until the COVID-19 Delta variant and Hurricane Ida brought local tourism to a halt.

Property owner Timothy Sheehan has allowed the museum to operate essentially rent free for the past two years, giving locals and tourists alike the opportunity to visit the site that saw the origin of the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history and, later, the rise of jazz pioneer Edward “Kid” Ory.

After the museum closes, McCusker intends to spend the month of October applying for grants that would provide the necessary funding for operations to resume. The collection, which includes Ory’s valve trombone, sheet music and vintage records, will stay in place for the time being.

“We have been here at the very good graces of the owner for two years. The plan was to do it for a year, but the year got slaughtered by COVID-D and Ida. We did another year, and it’s really picked up. The last two weeks, we’ve had so many people come through. Even then, we’ve got a gap between what it costs to have this place here and the revenue we’re bringing in,” McCusker said. “We’re going to close in October and regroup. We’ve been around long enough now that we are going to qualify for grants that we wouldn’t have qualified for before. Tim Sheehan has got an incredible expense here to pay for every month. Hopefully we can raise some funds and come up with a solution that works for everybody. If we can find a way to make a comeback, we will.”

Parts of the house are original to the year 1790, making it one of the oldest structures in the region. For many years, the property stayed within the Montegut/Ory family. The home was unoccupied between 2005 and 2017. Without maintenance, the structure became dilapidated over time. When current owner Sheehan purchased the historic house in March 2017, he began a massive renovation project to restore it to its former glory.

For the past two years, Sheehan has allowed McCusker and Program Manager Charlotte Jones to share the historic house with the public.

In addition to offering tours, the 1811/Kid Ory House has hosted several events in the past year, including a photo restoration effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and several archaeological digs.

To commemorate the centennial of Ory’s band making their first recording, a May 2022 event at the house featured a Kid Ory tribute band and the creation of a recording on a wax cylinder using a 120-year-old Edison phonograph. Sybil Morial, former first lady of New Orleans and a descendent of Kid Ory’s family, celebrated Mother’s Day on the museum grounds.

McCusker hopes the collection can stay in St. John Parish to provide insight on two interesting pieces of local history. For many years, McCusker has been fascinated with the story of Kid Ory, a boy born among the cane fields who rose to become a legend in the music industry. A component of America’s music still lies in the heart of the Woodland Quarters neighborhood of LaPlace.
“There’s so much here that the people here can still relate to. When you find someone you can identify with, it makes history interesting. Hopefully we can be a place for that,” McCusker said. “We’re not giving up. From the lieutenant governor’s office to the local tourist commission and some of the other local historic venues have been very supportive. We’re hoping we can put all of our heads together and find a resolution.”

The 1811/Kid Ory Historic House will continue to operate by appointment Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., during the month of September. Tickets can be obtained at 1811kidoryhistorichouse.com.