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Coleen Perilloux Landry | profile | all galleries >> Carville's Leprosarium, A Place of Hope and Sorrow tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Carville's Leprosarium, A Place of Hope and Sorrow

In 1894 a New Orleans physician and a few leprosy (Hansen's Disease) patients were carried by coal barge in the middle of the night from an old warehouse(Perdido and Jefferson Davis Parkway) up the Mississippi River to Carville, Louisiana, to an old plantation where patients could be cared for. The doctor also carried supplies and bedding and beds furnished by Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Because of the type of disease no other transportation or housing could be secured.
He had a friend purchase the 30 acres of land under the disguise of an ostrich farm. Had he said it was to be used for leprosy patients, no one would have sold it to him.
Upon arrival they found the main house of the Indian Camp Plantation falling down and in no condition to house patients. The patients and medical staff were placed in former slave quarters until repairs could be made.
In 1896 the State of Louisiana established the Carville Leprosarium, the only one of its kind in the continental United States. The infirmary, food services and patients' living quarters were run by the wonderful nuns of the Daughters of Charity, the only group to come forward to care for patients with a disease still so unknown as to cause, treatment and cure. Their pay was $100 a year.
In 1916 Congress passed an Act whereby the United States Public Health Services took over the colony along with the Daughters of Charity.
For over 100 years more than 5,000 leprosy patients were cared for at Carville and some 1,000 are buried at Carville. Many, many of them offered themselves as guinea pigs and took many experimental medicines hoping to find a cure.
Once a person became a patient he or she stayed on the grounds for the rest of their lives. Children with the disease were brought to Carville, separated from their families and probably lived their entire life there. Though marriages were discouraged, many patients married each other and small cottages were built on the grounds for them to live. However, any children born of these marriages were immediately put in foster care, either in an institution for orphans or in private homes. Through the years the children could visit on Sunday to see their parents on the other side of the fence. Some of the stories are heartwrenching.
The beautiful grounds at Carville, as it is known worldwide, contain a complete community. There is a power plant to meet all the needs. The medical staff lived in small but beautiful cypress cottages designed in southern Louisiana architecture. An infirmary with many windows to let in the light takes up a large area as well as a recreation hall with a movie theatre, post office and ballroom. There is a golf course, a lake for fishing and boating, and a swimming pool. The buildings are connected by 2 1/2 miles of beautiful covered walkways where the patients could stay out of the weather . A Protestant Church and a Catholic Church were built with monies given by religious groups. The Daughters of Charity lived in a two story house facing the River Road where they arose at 4 a.m., attended Mass, then began the care of their patients. Several of the nuns,one of them a Polish nun who was the Chief Nurse, are buried in the cemetery amongst so many of the patients to whom they tended.
Behind the cemetery is a building known as the Armadillo building and the two silos are the texture and pattern of the armadillo shell. Much research was done for decades there on the armadillo in an attempt to find a cure for leprosy.
Carville, nestled among the ancient live oaks with their moss and resurrection fern, sits on the Great River Road. It is a place of beauty, sorrow, hope and haunting memories.
Some sixteen patients still live at Carville along with a medical staff. Many patients live in surrounding areas, having been allowed to move off the grounds in recent years when medical research learned more about the disease and found medicines to control it. They still come to the hospital for their medical needs.
In 1999 the Louisiana National Guard became the caretakers of Carville. Along with the care of the residents, they established a youth program on another part of the grounds whereby boys and girls can earn a high school diploma and learn job skills. The program has been highly successful. And hope continues on at Carville, a world unto itself.
Click on the small image and it will give you a large image with text underneath, so scroll down past the title.
The Gnarled, Ancient Oak of Carville
The Gnarled, Ancient Oak of Carville
Indian Camp Plantation House
Indian Camp Plantation House
The hospital at the United States' Only Mainland Leprosarium
The hospital at the United States' Only Mainland Leprosarium
Daughters of Charity's House at Carville's Leprosarium
Daughters of Charity's House at Carville's Leprosarium
A Small Part of the Cemetery at Carville
A Small Part of the Cemetery at Carville
Protestant Church at Carville
Protestant Church at Carville
Side view shows damage of Cupola by Hurricane Gustav
Side view shows damage of Cupola by Hurricane Gustav
Two of the majestic oaks at Carville's Leprosarium
Two of the majestic oaks at Carville's Leprosarium
Iron Railing and Door to Second Floor Ballroom
Iron Railing and Door to Second Floor Ballroom
The Catholic Church at Carville
The Catholic Church at Carville
River Road at Carville
River Road at Carville
Covered Walkway Leading to Chapel
Covered Walkway Leading to Chapel
Catholic Church at Carville Leprosarium Taken from Choir Loft
Catholic Church at Carville Leprosarium Taken from Choir Loft
Carville's Catholic Church Bell
Carville's Catholic Church Bell
Carville cemetery
Carville cemetery
Carville Leprosarium tombstones
Carville Leprosarium tombstones
Once Home of the Medical Director
Once Home of the Medical Director
Carville grounds with ancient live oaks
Carville grounds with ancient live oaks
Carville 's Historic Marker
Carville 's Historic Marker
Carville's enclosed halls
Carville's enclosed halls
Carville Enclosed walkway
Carville Enclosed walkway
Carville's curved hall
Carville's curved hall
Carville's ancient live oaks near the Mississippi River Road
Carville's ancient live oaks near the Mississippi River Road
Carville stained glass window in Catholic Church - healing the  blind
Carville stained glass window in Catholic Church - healing the blind
Carville  Catholic church window- the  lame to walk.
Carville Catholic church window- the lame to walk.
Carville's Lake
Carville's Lake