David and Mary Weeks, the builder of the Shadows-on-the-Teche
David Weeks, builder of the Shadows, was just one of many Anglo-Americans who made their way to the Attakapas region, the present day parishes of St. Martin, St. Mary, Iberia, Vermilion, and Lafayette, after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase to seek their fortune making sugar. Another family important to our story is the Conrad family of Virginia. By 1808, Mary Clara Conrad and her family were living on a plantation on the Bayou Teche between New Iberia and Jeanerette, probably Rosedale, the home of Mary’s maternal grandmother Ann Thruston.
As a young man, David Weeks began working with his father, William Weeks, accumulating much property in the Felicianas and the Attakapas in the early 1800s, purchasing most of Grand Cote (now Weeks Island), over 2,000 acres by 1818. They grew cotton in the Felicianas, and attempted indigo and cotton in the Attakapas before David Weeks began concentrating on sugar in the early 1820s. While establishing the plantation at Grand Cote, David found time to court and marry Mary Conrad, Mary being 21 years of age and David 32. The couple resided on William Weeks’ plantation on Bayou Sarah near St. Francisville.
After David’s father died, they decided to move to their Attakapas properties to concentrate on the production of sugar at Grand Cote. Though Grand Cote was ideal as a sugar plantation, its location was considered too remote for his family, so David first acquired property on Bayou Parc Perdu where they lived for four years, before he bought, in 1825, 158 acres at New Iberia on Bayou Teche.
Construction of the new house began in 1831 and was finally completed in 1834. Invoices indicate that two brothers were in charge of most of the building process, Jotham and James Bedell. One of only three brick structures on the bayou in New Iberia in the 1830s, the Shadows was constructed in a Classical Revival style on the exterior with the distinctive eight white columns across the front facade. Unlike other southern plantation homes of its time, the new Weeks home incorporated a Louisiana Colonial floorplan.
As the house neared completion in May 1834, David Weeks left on a sea voyage to New Haven, Connecticut, in an attempt to find a cure for a recurring unidentified disease. In mid-June 1834 Mary and six children moved into the new house. The happiness of moving into the new home, was overshadowed by worry about the absent David Weeks, who died August 25, 1834, never having lived in the new house on Bayou Teche. Almost six months after his death an inventory was taken of his estate; the main plantation of Grand Cote and the house and furnishings was valued at $75,000 and $20,700, respectively.