From home to museum
The Desbassayns home represents a vast estate formed during the second half of the 18th century from several concessions brought together by the will of a wealthy Creole family, which marked the history of slavery in Réunion, the Panon Desbassayns.
These Creole planters have never ceased to increase these more or less large plots which developed in strips from the seaside, beyond the geometric steps and the municipalities to the state line located 1400 meters from the sea. altitude. The Desbassayns house can be estimated at around 306 ha in 1780, 420 ha in 1791 to reach 492 ha in 1845 including 277 ha of cultivable areas concentrated in Saint-Gilles and worked by 295 slaves replaced by more than 200 hired after the abolition from 1848.
The death of the widow Desbassayns in 1846 marked the end of the estate's prosperity, which passed into the hands of her heirs, the fruit of the alliance with a noble family from Toulouse, the de Villèle.
The crisis which affected the sugar economy in Reunion Island during the second half of the 19th century until the 1970s did not jeopardize the land unit of the estate but induced changes in its mode of management, notably with the constitution of the Société anonyme de Saint-Gilles in 1927, sold to Crédit Foncier Colonial in 1960 and renamed Sucreries de Bourbon ten years later.
When the Department of the Reunion Island acquired in 1974 from the descendants of Ombline Desbassayns the large estate of Saint-Gilles-les-Hauts for a symbolic franc, its transformation into a historical museum is registered in the deed of acquisition. After the natural history museum (1854) and the Léon Dierx museum (1911), the historical museum of Saint-Gilles-les-Hauts thus becomes the third Reunion Island museum and the first establishment created after departmentalization.
For more information visit tourist spots in Réunion