Grab a Mint Julep and put on your virtual walking shoes because today is the final post of the New Orleans series and we are going to tour the Garden District. As Barbara Barry reminds us that “beauty is in our surroundings”, I write this post to share some of the beautiful details of the neighborhood that I grew up in – for the benefit of friends and readers headed to New Orleans this month. The homes you will see in this post are all in the Garden District, one of the older neighborhoods built between 1832-1900 on the highest ground available in New Orleans.
Above is the house I grew up in, one of the earliest examples of Italianate Architecture in the city. My room was upper right with the balcony, and the most amazing library was in the room with the two windows to the left of the front door. Decades after having lived in this home when I was well into the interior design business, I was paging through a door catalog and came across a photo of the doors of this very house. I will never forget the moment where I paused, thinking “that – looks – just – like….” as my eyes landed on the exact numbers of the address… realizing that this door company was offering to replicate the doors with the beautiful leaded glass. Pinecrest Door, in case you are interested… see below:
The home was not a designated historical landmark until the current owners took the time to make it official. The architecture provides a few clues to its age. Because it is pre civil war, built in 1853, it was built with a detached kitchen, a slave quarters above the kitchen and a free-standing carriage house. If you were to walk down the side street and peer over the gate, you would find these elements long since joined to the house as an L shaped extension and the carriage house now a separate property next door. Many houses in the garden district were built in this way. As wars were fought and the world evolved, the detached kitchens and slave quarters joined the main houses taking on new functions and the carriage houses were mostly eventually sold off as separate properties. A few interesting pointers about this house- only 5 families have ever owned this home. Both Theodore Roosevelt and Hellen Keller visited. It has a trap door imbedded into the wide plank floors that is invisible to the eye. It was not built with closets, but instead, the most gorgeous armoires and four poster beds you have ever seen, crafted by the famous southern cabinet maker Prudent Mallard.
The gorgeous trees lining the sidewalks are hundreds of years old, with gigantic healthy root systems that create continual problems over time for sidewalks. I have memories of being in bed early as a kid, knowing exactly which way people were headed as they walked down the street- by the sound of the neighborhood dogs’ barks. Our dogs (doberman and german shepherd) made an art form of waiting patiently in the bushes on their side of the fence, eager to surprise unsuspecting pedestrians.
This is the Women’s Opera Guild, next door. Also the scene of various reality shows and movies. New Orleans is now the “Hollywood of the South” due to tax incentives, so it is not uncommon to see film trucks.
This house is directly across the street from my childhood home. Interestingly, it was a Catholic Church for decades, and is now a home. I would love to see it now, and wish I had toured it when it was a church. But I did now know that I would grow up to be a designer, did I…
This home is one of my favorites in the Garden District. Notice the proportions of these houses- how high the ceilings are and the windows too. The windows and doors are distinctive elements to New Orleans design, as are the wide entry halls in many of these houses, wide like 11 ft wide…
And this is the carriage house that belongs to that home. Gorgeous or what?
This home is referred to as the “Cornstalk” house because of its famous fence. It is a gorgeous home inside and out. Only one block from this home is the famous cemetery, where all graves are above ground.
The graves are above ground because New Orleans is below sea level. Just across the street from the famous cemetery is one of New Orleans’ finest restaurants, Commanders Palace.
This is just a small sampling of the Garden District. St Charles Avenue is only blocks away from all of these homes, where the streetcars run and the Mardi Gras parades route through the city. Save a little time for the Garden District and a drive down St Charles Avenue to soak in the history and iconic charm of this city, well worth the experience.