Donaldsonville building with storied, ‘sordid’ past en route to revitilization

The men and women of the day used the old Mistretta’s Grocery Store for more than just shopping

Donaldsonville building with storied, ‘sordid’ past en route to revitalization

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (WAFB) - Chef John Folse and his wife, Lollie, own two buildings in Donaldsonville, two of only seven that were still standing after the Civil War.

Folse donated one of those to the Donaldsonville Area Foundation in the hopes it could be restored into a grocery store and museum.

“My world in Donaldsonville is just being married here, opening a business here, and then realizing just how important this town was to the rest of the State of Louisiana and to the nation; a very important town,” Folse said.

The building was originally owned and operated by local businessman Sam Mistretta. Donaldsonville Area Foundation Treasurer Lee Melancon said the building has a sordid past, complete with “calling" stairs and windows from a time when it was a brothel.

“Allegedly, the women of the day would actually call the people in to come and participate with them in the activities they were doing in the upstairs part of the building," Melancon said.

At one time, the historic building also served as an infirmary for Civil War soldiers. In 2018, Chef Folse and his wife donated the old building to the foundation.

“Chef Folse has been a great contributor to the City of Donaldsonville," Carl Capone, chairman of the Donaldsonville Area Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, said. “He purchased this building at some time shortly after he opened his restaurant and did some renovation work to it with the hope of using it someday.”

By donating it to the foundation, Folse hopes to see the building restored to a general store and museum.

“The museum will have a lot of artifacts, a lot of displays about the history of Donaldsonville. I see some artifacts, things from Chef Folse, paintings from artists in the community, different things that we can use to sell in the facility. These things would benefit and bring a few dollars,” Capone said.

Donaldsonville has been working to revitalize its historic charm and culture to become a place where visitors will come to tour, dine, shop, and stay.

“I don’t want this building to fall down and people to say, ‘What was it? Why didn’t somebody take care of it?’ We’re making a step to hopefully entice other people to do the same,” Folse said.

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