The house also known as La Grande Maison has been lovingly restored and refurbished and turned into a restaurant and bar, serving and celebrating Creole inspired food and and delicious Takamaka Rum Cocktails.
The original settlers arrived on Mahé, then a French colony, in 1772. La Plaine St André was built just 20 years later in 1792. The land, originally a 60 acre plot, was given to Jean Francois Jorre de St Jorre and his wife Marie, who came to the island on board the ship La Saône in 1790. They had travelled from Ile de France (now named Mauritius) with Marie’s two sisters, their husbands and 36 slaves. The Jorre de St Jorre family had negotiated the passage to Mahé with the French authorities and had agreed to repay the boat fare by supplying the colony’s warehouse with produce farmed on the land they had been granted.
The house, originally built in 1792, stood on coral pillars and was constructed entirely out of hard wood, with a roof made out of shingles. Inside there was a sitting room, dining room and bedrooms with adjoining dressing rooms. The house was surrounded by terraces, and had over 25 doors and windows to both capture the beautiful views and maximise the airflow – a very important element in the days before air conditioning! Bathrooms, toilets and kitchens were generally built outside the house in the 18th Century in an effort to maintain a high level of hygiene, keep cooking smells from the house and to prevent fires.
Jorre de St Jorre named the plantation house La Plaine St Andre after his birthplace in Reunion. In addition to the main house there were several outbuildings of which some remains can still be seen in the gardens. On the left of the house were the guest pavilions, a copra mill (copra is the dried flesh of the coconut), a copra kiln and a coconut store house where coconut, copra, cinnamon and patchouli oil were kept. A coach shed also stood where the Takamaka Rum offices are today, and apart from the coaches and a rickshaw, it housed horseboxes, a cotton mill and a maize grinder. Further pavilions were used to store tobacco and bananas.
The land on which La Grande Maison stands today is just a fraction of the 60 acres that was originally cultivated and used to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.
La Plaine St André was listed as a National Monument in 1982. It sadly fell into a state of disrepair and work to renovate the site began in 1988 but a suspected arson attack almost completely destroyed the house in 1990. It was later rebuilt with financial assistance from the French Ministry of Cooperation and became an Eco Museum for a short period of time from 1996. Over two centuries since it was built, La Plaine St André and its grounds have been restored and opened to the public along with the restaurant, bar and our rum distillery . The heritage room, gardens, education and tour programmes will ensure that the history of this magnificent house and grounds will be retold for many generations to come.
Find out more by taking a guided tour of La Plaine St André and the Trois Frères Distillery. Tours run Monday to Friday at 11.30am and 1.30pm, and require no prior booking.