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Contributing Writer

An historic late 19th century Opelousas home that perhaps many thought was a candidate for demolition is undergoing extensive restoration for a private residence that new owner Angela Angello thinks might eventually lead to similar revitalization projects.

Angello says the two-story house once used as the La Garconnierre Boys’ Home near the corner of West Vine and South Court, looked quite forlorn at least externally when she first considered purchasing the property last year.

Angela Angello and Crystal Brooks
Angela Angello with her daughter Crystal Brooks

“I was delivering something to the Haas-Hirsch building across the street one day and when I looked at the house, I was just drawn to it. I think people were looking just at the condition of the porch, but I saw something else,” says Angello, an Opelousas real estate broker.

Angello admits some might have disagreed with her first-sight perception of the house historically known as the Gilbert Dupre or Estilette Home, built sometime between 1890 and 1895.

Those passing by might have thought the house was beyond repair.

Paint had long ago peeled off much of the external wood, while the two expansive upstairs porches sagged somewhat and featured torn screens.

While Angello recalls the house had also become a sleeping refuge for the homeless, she didn’t consider her desire to restore the probably as entirely hopeless.

That sentiment was confirmed she says when she first opened the door and inspected the interior.

It may have appeared the home was falling apart, but Angello notes she saw nothing but internal potential which beckoned to be restored.

On the bottom floor most of the original hardwood floors are solid and intact. One of the front rooms also contains the original fireplace mantle used for a heating source at one time by Gilbert Dupre Sr., his wife Julia and their four children.

“We pulled the vinyl off the floor and we had to replace of it with laminate. Otherwise, the wood when the house was constructed is still here,” says Angello.

A narrow 16-step stairway leads upstairs which contains four of the home’s five bedrooms.

Unlike others who might have wanted to modernize and knock down the original walls house, Angello is leaving most of the 3,500-square foot residence mostly as it was first constructed.

One exception is in the main bathroom, where she is installing a spacious walk-in shower along with a double vanity and powder room section.

Angello is hopeful that restoring the house might begin similar Court Street restoration projects.

“I want this to show what can be done to some of these beautiful homes in the city and possibly encourage new owners to invest in Opelousas. That type of home ownership is one way to drive out crime and make this town thrive again,” says Angello.

Angello, who was at the house Thursday morning with daughter and realtor Crystal Brooks along with several construction workers who were repairing portions of the outside and interior, thinks the house restoration could be completed by March.

Who Was Gilbert Dupre?

According to an article in the St. Landry Trade Review and other historical articles, Dupre, born near Opelousas in 1858, was the great grandson of former Louisiana governor Jacques Dupre of Opelousas.

Gilbert Dupre, who served several terms in the state legislature, was self-educated, but he studied law, was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1880 and established a law practice in Opelousas. His father Lucius Dupre, was a University of Virginia law school graduate and a lawyer and a judge.

Dupre who became a district judge in 1896, married Julia Estilette, the only daughter of Judge E.D. Estilette and the couple had four children, three daughters and a son. The Judge also had 4 or 5 children with Victoria Gray, his mulatto “partner” of which some were daughters. See Wikipedia for more info.

The dates of the Dupre-Estilette marriage vary, depending on which historical source is consulted. The marriage occurred however sometime between 1871 and 1881.

Julia Estilette, according to separate historical references, was an only child born in Connecticut where her father, eventually a speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was attending what was then Yale College.

Gilbert Dupre Sr., died in 1946, two years after his wife. The couple is buried in Opelousas. Myrtle Grove Cemetery.