Bonnie Warren PHOTOGRAPHS BY CRAIG MACALUSOThe view from the entry through the double doors captures two of the old oaks on the three-acre site
Childhood dreams sometimes do come true – just ask Perry Segura. “When I was a young boy growing up in New Iberia, there was an old mansion that had become a fading relic of its bygone grandeur,” Segura explains. “It had been built in 1816 and was called the Darby House. The estate surrounding the house comprised about 1,000 acres. My father leased part of the land to run cattle and, at the age of 10, I would help him round them up. This was how I became acquainted with the home and land. Sadly, the home was already in deplorable condition, but I registered in my mind that someday I would like to buy the land and fix up the house and live there.”
Segura never gave up the dream. He finished high school and left home to study architecture. After graduation, he came back to New Iberia to practice. Success followed, and his love of the old house never faded. “I would pass the Darby House and feel sadness that it was so neglected,” he says. “I inquired about the property and I was told that it was tangled up with so many heirs that I would never be able to purchase it.
Built to pay homage to the now-lost Darby mansion, the Segura home sits on the same footprint as the old house, surrounded by giant oaks.
“Imagine my surprise when Father Barson, pastor of Our Lady of Nativity Church, called to tell me he wanted to acquire 10 acres of the Darby estate to build a church. He said that he had located almost all of the heirs and convinced them to donate their portion of the 10-acre tract to the church, and all had agreed – except one of the major heirs who said that he would be willing to sell his interest. I didn’t hesitate when Father Barson approached me about buying the share and donating it to the church.” Soon, a beautiful modern church in a circular design with a high steeple was built.
In 1969, Segura purchased the entire remaining estate that had dwindled down to 550 acres with two other partners. Later, he bought out his partners. In 1975, he donated the old Darby House to the Attakapas Historical Society in hopes it would be preserved. Unfortunately, the house burned down. Later, the society gave the land where the house had stood back to Segura.
Emma Lou and Perry Segura.
In 1985, Segura began developing Squirrel Run – an upscale subdivision of about 150 homes – on the property. He built the 18-hole golf course that he also named Squirrel Run, which he still owns today. Through it all, he took care to keep clear the plot of land where the old Darby House had stood. It wasn’t until 2000 that Segura decided the time had come to build his version of the Darby House.
“Imagine my wife’s surprise when I announced that I was going to finally build on site of the Darby House,” he smiles. “We had a lovely large house and she was content to never move. I, on the other hand, had never given up my childhood dream of building a house amid the massive live oaks on the footprint of the original house.”
“He was so passionate about his project that he wouldn’t even let me see his plans,” explains Emma Lou, Perry’s wife. “It was all a top secret and the day we moved into the house in 2002, he was like a happy child.”
The large living room features fine paneling and cabinetry crafted by Jarrod Dugas of New Iberia
Today, the house is a showplace that pays homage to the Darby mansion, but doesn’t exactly replicate it. “It’s a modern-day version of the 1816 house,” Segura says. “Since it’s located on three acres of land that’s surrounded by the golf course, it still has a wonderful pastoral setting.
The master bedroom provides a view of the back porch and the spacious grounds
“Today I am proud of our comfortable home and, yes, I do believe that dreams can come true.”
The large dining room features a mounted reedbuck on the wall and horns fashioned into a chandelier.