Gretna’s White House –
A Gretna Historic Home Series wouldn’t be complete without mention of one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood, the city’s very own “White House.” Once the residence of the William D. White family, the home is now a popular gathering site in the Gretna Historical Society Museum Complex at 209 Lafayette Street.
The village blacksmith, William D. White, his wife, nee Margaret Ziifle and their large family lived in this 1845 historic Creole cottage. The Whites were married in 1865 after his return from the Civil War. They had nine children, seven of whom lived to adulthood.
The original home had four rooms with a fireplace in the center. The kitchen and bathroom were outside with only the living area and bedrooms inside the home.
Upstairs was the quarters for the boys. The narrow staircase that was originally located outside to the left side of the building was the only entrance to the upstairs area. Furniture had to be lifted by a crane through double doors to this room.
With the addition of an inside kitchen and bathroom many years later, the staircase became a part of the interior. Eventually the staircase was cut and hinged like present day attic stairs to fit within the space.
One of the most notable of the White children was Lilly White Ruppel, a schoolteacher who became principal of Gretna Elementary School #1, which was later named for her. She served in the school system from 1904 until 1944.
Lilly Ruppel was also a columnist for 10 years, penning “My Teacher Says” in the Jefferson Democrat and served as secretary of the Jefferson Parish Red Cross for 20 years. She and her brother, August “Gus” White, the last of the siblings to live in the cottage, resided there for many years.
According to Sevilla White Finley, another sibling and educator, Katherine “Kitty” White Robert lived in the Barataria/ Lafitte community where she taught the children of the fishers and trappers.
Lilly White Ruppel’s picture hangs in honor on the wall as does other photographs of the city of Gretna, some dating back to the 1920’s. Artifacts like a picture of the Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop in Scotland, a donation to the museum complex are also there.
The White House was donated to the Gretna Historical Society in the 1980s. In 1990, termites were discovered in the area around the fireplace which was removed when the building was renovated to one large room to be used as a meeting hall, with a bathroom and kitchen to the rear.
The White House is the home of the Gretna Historical Society, a group of locals who are interested in the preservation of the Gretna community and its history.
In 2020 the White House was totally and beautifully renovated with a stunning updated kitchen and a new indoor bar area. The small patio at the rear was extended into a much larger outdoor space. The original floors were refinished, and plantation shutters were installed in the windows and the front doors.
The White House is available and highly affordable to be rented for social events such as receptions, repasts, showers, meetings and parties. The new amenities and expanded patio are meant for socializing. For availability and rates, call the museum complex office at 504.362.3854.