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Chef, foundation to launch historic preservation project

May 12, 2018

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana chef and a local foundation are working to preserve a building that was erected in the 1800s and was a grocery store from 1944 to 1991.

Chef John Folse, who gave the building to the Donaldsonville Downtown Development District in 2014, and the Donaldsonville Area Foundation will launch the Historic Donaldsonville General Store & Museum project Wednesday. Scheduled speakers include Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Mayor Leroy Sullivan, and Folse.

Records only date back to the late 1800s, but local lore has it that the building dates back to 1850, according to a news release from Chef John Folse & Co.

For the most part, records from 1889 to 1944 show only the owners, but some locals believe it was used as an infirmary during the Civil War, and at some point was a saloon and brothel, the statement said. Local lore also has it that the building was one of seven that remained in Donaldsonville after Admiral David G. Farragut attacked the city during the Civil War.

A March 19, 1898 article in The Daily Times refers to a possible tenant as running cockfights with purses of $50 to $100, the news release said.

“The above named place (Donaldsonville Cock Pit) ... is finished and under the management of that experienced game fancier, Mr. Joseph Bradford,” the article stated. “To-morrow forenoon at 10:30 o’clock, will signal its opening when fighting chickens from many places will take part.”

From April 11, 1944 until his death in 1991, Sam S. Mistretta owned it and ran it as a grocery store. The building had been vacant for nearly a decade when Folse and his wife, Laulie Bouchereau Folse, bought it from Mistretta’s wife, Angeline Regira Mistretta.

“The Mistretta Store is a major part of Donaldsonville’s long history,” Folse said. “I initially purchased and refurbished the building because of its historic value.”

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