Museo de los Isleños was established in 1980. It was originally housed in a traditional brick-between-posts Creole cottage built around 1840 by Vicente Núñez de Villavicencio. The structure was donated by Marie Louise Molero O'Toole and Mabel Isabel Molero Quatroy in memory of their parents, Manuel Molero and Camille Sylvera.
Manuel Molero was born in eastern St. Bernard Parish at the end of the 19th century to a family of Spanish-speaking Isleños. His parents died early in his youth leaving him to be reared by his maternal family. In those years of his life Manuel formed a deep belief in community and familial unity.
As Manuel grew to maturity he pursued a subsistence livelihood, trapping, fishing and hunting. During the years of south Louisiana's booming fur industry, he founded Delacroix Corporation, a land holding company. Fur trapping was gradually replaced by the development of oil and gas resources on acreage of swamp and marsh belonging to the corporation.
Mr. and Mrs. Molero imbued their children with their love of the Spanish heritage and a strong sense of community and familial unity. This dedication to family and community, induced the Molero family to donate the museum property for its present use.
The original Los Isleños Museum consisted of six rooms, including a bathroom and kitchen. Exhibits in two rooms faced Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs, and depicted through the use of historic imagery and three-dimensional items, the history of the Canary Islands, the settlement of Isleño colonists in Louisiana and the cultural evolution of Isleño descendants in this region as they adapted to a new environment. The museum also contained a research library of nearly 1,000 volumes relating to the history, folk culture, and literature of the Canary Islands, Spain, and the Isleños of Louisiana.
In 1996, the Society commissioned Robert J. Cangelosi, A.I.A., of Koch, Wilson Architects, to compose a master plan for the development of a museum complex, utilizing existing historic structures and acreage, and projecting the acquisition of endangered historic structures and additional adjoining property. The Society moved the Coconut Island Barroom, a 1920 cypress board and batten structure, and the Estopinal House and kitchen, dated circa 1800 to the museum grounds as part of a plan for a master complex.
The Coconut Island Barroom was one of the last board and batten commercial structures remaining in St. Bernard Parish. In the past, barrooms like the Coconut Island were centers of commerce and community gathering places.
The Estopinal House and kitchen building were moved to the museum complex in October 1999. The main house is constructed of hand-hewn cypress posts and bousillage, a mud and moss mixture originally used by Native Americans. The bousillage was placed between posts and used as insulation. The house is identical in floor plan to the original homes built by the Spanish Government for Isleño colonists in St. Bernard in the 1780's. The structure was restored as a house museum, depicting life in the earliest days of Isleño colonization in Louisiana.
A new multi-purpose building funded through a grant from the office of Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster was completed in June 2000. The structure was designed by Isleño descendant Brian Borne, A.I.A., an architect employed by the architectural firm of Bradley, Brewster and Associates in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Borne and his firm of employment donated all design services for the multi-purpose facility.
The museum complex was renamed Los Isleños Heritage and Multi-Cultural Park in an effort to involve the diverse cultural groups, which have molded the Isleño identity in Louisiana. When the Isleños arrived in the region, they joined French and German colonists who had settled along the Mississippi River earlier in the 18th century. The Isleños also met Native Americans and learned much about their new environment through interaction with local Indian tribes. At the behest of Los Isleños Society, Parish Government entered into a cooperative agreement with the United Houma Nation in June 1999. The Houmas constructed a palmetto hut on the park grounds.
Risen from the Ashes
In August of 2005 the Los Islenos Heritage and Multicultural Park was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The museum building was left incapable of repair and was demolished .
Today, the Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society Museum has completely been restored and has reopened at its 1345 - 1357 Bayou Road, St. Bernard, Louisiana, 70085 address site. The Ducros Library, The Esteves House and others have also been restored with success and beauty.
The museum complex's restoration was certainly integral to the preservation of the Islenos culture and history. Just as the early Islenos conquered the many challenges that were presented to them while pioneering the marshes of San Bernardo, so has today's Islenos descendants risen to the occasion with completion of the museum and other structures to further preserve their culture and history.
Visiting Days - Hours
Visits to the Islenos Museum are welcomed. It is opened Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00am to 4:00pm and by appointment by calling 504-277-4681. The Museum is closed on all federal holidays.
Notice: January, 2013 there will be a $5.00 Admission fee per person for guided tours of the Museum Complex. Children under 12 are admitted free to both exhibits.