The story of this Alexandria, Louisiana house begins on a sweet note with the son of a French immigrant who arrived in New Orleans in 1882. Phoenix O. DePass (1843-1907) was an extraordinary man, who had made himself from nothing after losing his parents by the age of thirteen years. After serving in the Civil War, DePass found work with New Orleans businesses before he ventured to open his own business, a candy manufacturing firm called Jaeger & DePass. After success with candy, the owners added wholesale and retail wood and willow ware offering its customers a large selection.
Jaeger & DePass Manufacturing Confectioners, Dealers in Fireworks, Wooden and Willow Ware, etc. 9 to 13 Tchoupitoulas Street.Mr. DePass was considered “a gentleman of high social standing and of great influence… [who keeps] abreast of the times in methods of thinking, and his ideas in municipal and state affairs are practical and sound.” Mr. DePass was nominated by the Democratic party and elected to a seat in the Louisiana State Legislature. Mr. DePass was married to Miss Eugenia Barnett, and their family included four daughters and two sons.
Their eldest daughter, Anna Barnett DePass (1867-1890) met Dr. John Newton Thomas, a young quarantine officer of Louisiana and married him at the age of twenty in her hometown of New Orleans. They were blessed with a child that they named Newton Oscar Thomas, but 2 months later Anna died and John renamed the child Newton DePass Thomas.
Dr. Thomas eventually remarried and had more children as well as a brilliant medical career as an expert in yellow fever, quarantine, and other illnesses. He eventually became settled in Pineville, Louisiana and was the superintendent of the new Hospital for the Insane.
In 1920, the federal census shows the family all living on the grounds of what we now know as Central Louisiana State Hospital. Newton Depass Thomas was 29 at this time, but unmarried and is listed as a sugar chemist by profession.
Check back soon for more information on Dr. John Newton Thomas and his life, including a murder trial and a doctor/doctor fisticuffs incident.
Newton Depass Thomas from all accounts was a hard-working young man who married Ruth Flower, the daughter of Davidson Spriggs Flower, who had grown up at 1830 Albert Street. They married in the 1920’s and made their home at 1815 White Street in 1928.
The couple was mostly away from home, especially during sugar season due to Newton’s job working for the Punta Alegre Sugar Company in Cuba. They often rented out their furnished home for stretches of time while they were in the Tropics.
It seems that the couple was called back to Alexandria due to the illness and eventual death in 1932 of Ruth’s father and they lived at her childhood home helping to care for him and her mother until they moved to their own home on White Street with her mother Maude Merrill Flower in 1936.
Mrs. Maude Flower resumed her duties in Alexandria society from White Street hosting church and civic affairs.
In the 1940 census it is noted that Mr. and Mrs. Newton Thomas were in Cuba but expected to return in May.
Cuban Revolution began with the assault on the Moncada Barracks on 26 July 1953 and ended on 1 January 1959, when Batista fled the country and the revolutionary forces took the remainder of the country and its capital Havana.
In 1957, Newton Thomas is listed as having gone from his position as superintendent of the Punta Alegre Sugar Company to a sugar chemist for the state Department of Agriculture. It seems a prudent choice and one that may not have been voluntary, because on August 6, 1960, Cuba nationalized the businesses and properties of the national telephone and electricity companies; Texaco, Esso and Sinclair oil companies; and the 36 sugar mills owned by U.S. firms in Cuba.
This home’s story is an unique as the house itself. Some of the distinctive features are the large master bedroom with his and hers bathrooms, a second master bedroom with an en suite bathroom. See the complete listing here.
Thanks to John Walker of Keller Williams Realty Cenla Partners for allowing me to showcase his listing. House photos credit: John Walker