The 150 acres of property situated on the banks of the Vermillion
River which is currently known as Bendel Gardens was formally Walnut Grove Plantation. It was owned by Jean Sosthene Mouton and Charlotte Odeide Mouton, daughter of Governor Alexandre Mouton. In the spring of 1863, when General
Banks waged his campaign in the area during the Civil War, federal troops seized Walnut Grove Plantation, forced out Mrs. Mouton and her six children, and occupied the house. Before leaving, they burned down the plantation home and all the outer buildings.
The property was later owned by Dr. Percy M. Girard and M. Eloi
Girard. Henri Bendel, a native of Lafayette purchased the property in 1927. Henri Bendel was the son of Mary Plonsky and Louis Bendel. Mary was born in Gollup, Prussia and lived in Alsace Lorraine. Louis Bendel had been in the British Navy when the two met and where married in New Orleans in 1863. They had seven children. Louis Bendel died in 1873. Mary Bendel proved to be an astute businesswoman. She operated a furniture store in a large building which she owned. The building also housed what was Lafayette's only Opera House, and undertaking parlor and a drug store.
Mary Bendel established the custom of giving to each child, when
they married or left home, $1500.00. Henri, her second son, used his funds to open his first business venture, a lady's dress and millinery shop in Morgan City. He was wiped out financially, when a fire destroyed his uninsured store. It was then that he went to New York City and worked for B. Altman & Co. He met and married Blanche Lehman and went to work for Lehman Bros.
Later, he went into business for himself and became world renowned as a couturier and designer of women's fashions. He went on to own the famed Henri Bendel stores in New York and Palm Beach.
Bendel made annual trips home to Lafayette to visit his mother.
Following her death, he decided to build a mansion in Lafayette similar to the one he had in Stamford, Connecticut. This is when Bendel purchased the historically significant tract of land. In preparation for this he had rare camellias, azaleas, magnolia, live oak, and other native trees and shrubs planted there. What is now Marguerite Boulevard which is lined with magnificent
Southern magnolia trees, was the road leading to the spot on the bayou where he planned to build. A pair of tall beautifully designed wrought iron gates were placed at the entrance of the estate. (These gates are presently at a home on
St. Mary Boulevard near Congress Street intersection.)
To the right as you entered Bendel Gardens, was the house that
Bendel built s the "lodge" for his estate. The Spanish style structure, housed the groundskeeper and also served as Bendel's place of residence on his visits to Lafayette. Bendel died in 1936 before the plans for his mansion materialized. This lodge was razed to the ground in September 2002.
The property was then bought by Houston oilman, Harry Bentlif, who developed the land as a residential neighborhood now known a Bendel Gardens.
Mr. Bentlif chose to name the streets after his children: Marguerite, Marjorie, Laurence, Beverly, Stephanie, and Bernice.