Following the devastating storms of 2005, St. Bernard was in desperate need of healthcare facilities. The Meraux Foundation stepped in and donated land valued at $2.8 million at no cost to the parish. This freed up funds for the parish and allowed for a world-class $70 million facility to be built in Chalmette. Relying on the hospital as an anchor, the Meraux Foundation plans to help facilitate the development of the surrounding properties to improve housing, retail, and economic development in the Parish.
Named after Dr. Louis “Doc” Meraux, Docville is a historic property that stretches from the Mississippi River to Lake Borgne. Today, the Foundation has designated over 130 acres of Docville as an educational learning center that hosts art series, workshops, and a number of community events, such as LSU’s AgMagic on the River.
The Docville Farm campus features the Main House, a turn-of-the-century structure resurrected after the hurricanes of 2005; the Dave Thompson Event Barn; the Arlene Meraux River Observation Center (AMROC); working stables with livestock; and educational installations, including sugar cane and citrus crops, a live crawfish pond, and an augmented reality sandbox.
Arlene Meraux River Observation Center
The Arlene Meraux River Observation Center, “AMROC,” was dedicated in 2014 to honor the legacy of Arlene Meraux by even further expanding the Foundation’s reach into the St. Bernard Parish community. AMROC serves as a learning center for coastal awareness and restoration; in addition to a meeting room and large classroom dedicated to community education, workshops, and projects, the building features a fifth-floor observation deck overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. The ground floor provides even more event space at Docville.
Dave Thompson Event Barn
In 2015, the Foundation dedicated the Dave Thompson Event Barn in honor of Mr. Thompson’s 65 years of service to the Meraux family and the community. The 19th century barn’s structure was originally located at the French Market in New Orleans, and it was moved and reconstructed on Docville by Anita Meraux in the late 1940s. Today, the Meraux Foundation hosts many community events in the barn.
Events at Docville
While Docville is not open to the public at all times, anyone interested in hosting a community event is welcomed make a request using the contact form. You can learn about upcoming Docville events on our events calendar. Please note that because Docville was established to serve the community for charitable purposes, private events, like weddings, and photo shoots are not allowed.
Docville is located at 5128 E. St. Bernard Hwy., Violet, La 70092.
The Violet Canal has played a signiﬁcant role throughout the History of St. Bernard. The Foundation plans on utilizing this great asset to enhance the quality of life in the Parish and serve as an economic development engine for the community.
Built in 1851 by Francoise Berthelemy LeBeau, the home was at ﬁrst a testament to his familyʼs fortune and class. The “haunted” atmosphere allegedly stems from LeBeauʼs extremely harsh treatment of his slaves. Throughout the rest of the plantationʼs history, many others attempted to use the homeʼs spacious assets. At one point in the 1920ʼs, it became the Friscoville Hotel, which was later discovered to be the front of an illegal gambling casino during prohibition. In 1967, it was purchased by Joseph Meraux.
Tragedy struck in November 2013 when the historic LeBeau Plantation was set on fire by illegal trespassers. The Foundationʼs board members are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the communityʼs most beloved treasures.
Recognizing that St. Bernardʼs natural landscape is a valuable asset, the Meraux Foundation is working toward creating a long-term vision for a public green space and eco-tourism assets that provide easy access to a unique wetlands ecosystem for residents and visitors alike.
40 Arpent Wetland Observatory
The Foundation donated land for the 40 Arpent Boat House, the first phase of a multi-governmental agency sponsored eco-tourism project planned for the Parish. The boat house, located at 8201 Benjamin St. in Chalmette, provides access to the 40 Aprent Canal for canoeing, kayaking, paddle boating, fishing, and general nature observation. A pedestrian bridge across the canal offers sightseers views of wetlands, old cypress trees, and wildlife.
For more information on the boat house, rentals, and hours of operation, please visit St. Bernard Tourism here.
The Foundation made a 25 acre stretch of land near the Chalmette National Battlefield available to serve as the site of the Meraux Foundation Living History Commemorative Park. Commemorating the 200th anniversary, the park hosted a re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans. The Foundation undertook this charitable project to enrich the Parish’s tourism offerings and the economy.
Many improvements to the land, planned by LLH’s historians, transported visitors back in time to January 1815. The battlegrounds hosted visitors to commemorate the 200 years since the battle, spreading the story of the Battle of New Orleans and its key role in the history of the United States.
The Meraux Foundation Living History Commemorative Park is located near the Woodlands Subdivision at the intersection of the Guerenger Canal and Patricia Street in St. Bernard Parish, La.
Part of strengthening St. Bernard Parish means creating the jobs and services that our residents need. The Foundation uses some of its land holdings to attract businesses, especially retail that had been lacking in the Parish. The Foundation provided the land for the Walmart on Judge Perez, which is one of the store’s most successful locations.
Instead of selling the land, the Meraux Foundation leases it; and the revenue is used to fund the Foundation’s programs.
The Meraux Foundation, through Meraux Land Development LLC, donated a plot of land at 4700 Paris Road in Chalmette to the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office for the site of a new sub-station. The sub-station’s location is ideal because it allows the Sheriff’s Office to monitor traffic entering and exiting the Parish.
Arlene Meraux had a special place in her heart for animals, and today, caring for animals is part of the Foundation’s work. The Meraux Foundation donated the land for an Animal Services station after Hurricane Katrina.
When Arlene Meraux founded the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, she asked her niece Rita to manage it with a simple guiding principle: to ensure that the land resources that Arlene transferred to the Foundation would be used to improve the quality of life in St. Bernard.
To advance this mission, the Meraux Foundation developed a two block stretch of vacant and underused properties along St. Claude Avenue into St. Claude Arts, an “art campus” that includes studios, galleries, and a theatre. The Meraux Foundation assembled the properties as a public interest project to accelerate the growth of the Old Arabi Cultural District.
Borrowing from creative placemaking approaches, the project leverages arts and culture as a driver for economic development and enhanced livability in the parish. St. Claude Arts has created a new destination for current residents and visitors, attracted new homeowners, and increased commerce in St. Bernard.
To support the Arts, the Meraux Foundation donated $1.8 million to develop the Cultural Arts Center of Chalmette High School. The state-of-the-art facility featured vocal, musical, and theatrical performances throughout the year. The Meraux Foundation also award a grant each year to support the St. Bernard Performing Arts Academy, which puts on Broadway caliber productions in the space.
The Foundation owns property in the lower Parish that includes non-levee wetlands and marshes. These properties have been the site of Meraux Foundation-sponsored tree plantings to help protect the Parish against coastal erosion.
The environment is a key focus of Meraux Foundation initiatives, which already include several coastal restoration and education programs. Initiatives range from outreach to schools in St. Bernard to engaging stakeholders to create a strategy that protects the coast and respects the way of life in St. Bernard.
The Meraux Foundation donated land to St. Bernard Parish Public Schools for the Arlene Meraux Elementary School, where generations of school children will receive a quality education.
Read the announcement here.
To provide amazing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike while helping boost the local economy, the Foundation donated land and funds to construct a multi-use asphalt trail along the levee top in St. Bernard Parish. Part of the larger Mississippi River Trail, this trail will run from the Valero Refinery in Meraux to the Violet Canal in Violet. Ultimately, the St. Bernard Parish portion of the trail, 11 miles long in length, will link St. Bernard Parish to Orleans and Plaquemines Parishes. In addition, the trail will eventually join with the planned 40 Arpent Trail, a 26-mile long bike trail loop that wraps around the entire Parish. This trail will provide for many recreational activities such as biking, running, walking, and rollerblading, and people will also be able to easily wander off the path and into the stores and restaurants of St. Bernard Parish to shop and dine.
The Foundation’s land gifts and projects are part of a dynamic strategy to ensure that the development of the Foundation’s vast land holdings have lasting improvements to various aspects of the community.
In addition to the customary functions of foundations, the Meraux Foundation manages, maintains, and preserves extensive and diverse properties, including levee-protected lands, pastures, woodlands, historic structures and sites, canals, water bottoms, riverfront property, battures, bayou-ridge sites, and non-levee wetlands and marshes.
Each type of land poses complex and often delicate challenges in its preservation, protection, and use, but the Foundation aims to maximize both short- and long-term benefits for the community and ecosystem. The Meraux Foundation intends to preserve natural environments while pushing St. Bernard ahead using smart-growth and sustainable development principles.
To date, it has donated land for public need, such as for the hospital and sheriff’s station, made real estate impact investments to spur economic development, and leveraged property to fund its charitable activities, including an annual scholarship program.
These advances add up to the ultimate goal of improving the local quality of life for all St. Bernard residents.