Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

Simon Villemarette built his chateau in a marsh instead of an upscale residential neighborhood, the builder reasoned, so he could be assured his unusual design would stand out.

Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee Photograph

Dear Julia,
I have been intrigued all my life by the castle that appears on your right as you leave New Orleans on Interstate 10 East. Can you tell me anything about it?

Jareth Bowden
New Orleans


You are making me feel old. The castle has only been a part of the Irish Bayou landscape since 1981. Its real name is Chateau Villemarette – a name honoring its builder and original owner, Simon Villemarette.

In July 1979, Villemarette’s freshly renovated fishing camp at Irish Bayou burned down as the result of an electrical fire. It was then, while his local building business was in a slump due to high interest rates, that Villemarette, with a love of 14th-century history and some extra time on his hands, got together with George W. Navo of Arabi and began planning a most unusual new camp – a castle which would soon rise on his Irish Bayou lot. In June ’80, he broke ground on this most unusual endeavor.

In February 1981, Chateau Villemarette’s construction caught the attention of The Times-Picayune/The Stares-Item. In a Sunday newspaper interview, the owner revealed why he chose to erect the camp in the middle of a marsh. “Well,” he said, “my place don’t belong on Canal Street. It wouldn’t fit on the Lakefront.” By placing his unusual home in a marsh instead of an upscale residential neighborhood, the builder reasoned, he could be assured his unusual design would stand out on the skyline and attract maximum attention.

As the 1984 World’s Fair loomed, Villemarette hoped to cash in on the tourist market by pitching the camp as a visitor’s attraction. When ill-health and red tape prevented Villemarette from expanding the small castle or marketing it as a tourist attraction, he placed it on the market, asking $178,500 for the two-bedroom residence which boasted unique architectural styling but only 982 square feet of living space. The years have taken a toll on Chateau Villemarette, which now leans a bit but still stands out as a landmark in the marshes of eastern New Orleans.

Dear Julia,
I am reading the September issue of New Orleans Magazine about the renaissance of Maple Street. Can you verify for me one of my blurry memories from the 1960s? I went to Fortier High School, and at lunch a bunch of friends would jump into a car (or a few cars) and hightail it over to, I think, Maple Street to a sandwich joint named Amy’s. It was just a stand-up outside counter place with stand-up outside tables and picnic tables. I believe, from walking through Google Maps, that Amy’s was located where Fresco Café & Pizzeria is now at 7625 Maple St., and Maple Street looks nothing like I remember it. Those were good times, and our favorite poor boy was grilled Spam. I am pretty sure that’s all we could afford, and it was also the quickest for service food so we could get back to school in time for classes. Is my memory correct about Amy’s and its location?    

John Hecker
Washington, D.C.

            
Amy’s Sno-Kreme was located at 7625 Maple St. and was in business from 1945 until ’75. Run by Amy Veillon, whose husband, Reno Veillon, ran Carrollton Refrigeration, it served hamburgers, sodas, malts, sundaes, root beer and snowballs. During the early ’60s, Amy’s Sno-Kreme often featured Amy’s Penny Day Special, during which customers could buy one treat at full price and get a second for only a penny. When Amy’s closed, the site became an antique shop specializing in American antiques and wicker furniture.

Dear Julia,
Growing up in River Ridge as a tenderfoot in New Orleans history, I have always wanted to know about my great-grandfather’s meat market. I read your column religiously always wanting to learn more and in hopes of a mention of the Bienville Meat Market. I got chills today reading about the market in the Sloppy Jim’s article. I have very little information about the store and have always wanted a picture to frame of it. I saw a commercial for Hurwitz-Mintz. It was a street shot up Royal Street with the Bienville Meat Market sign, but could not be used because it was a video.

Troy Pearson
NEW ORLEANS


The Bienville Meat Market operated at its 301 Royal St. location from 1918 to ’59. I don’t know your great-grandfather’s name, and management did change over the years, so I’m not sure if your family was the establishment’s original managers. When the market opened in late May ’18, it was advertised as being the most modern and sanitary market; its proprietors were Anthony J. Marciante and Frank Schiro. A full-service meat market, it featured a wide variety of fresh meats, poultry, wild game and sausage and was a popular French Quarter grocery shopping destination for more than 40 years.

Dear Julia Street,
When I was again in New Orleans a few weeks ago, we were visiting the less popular part of the Warehouse District and came across The World’s Largest Cow. It was made of Styrofoam, modeled on a Holstein, and must have measured 12 feet by 20 feet.

I presume it was an advertising model for an old dairy in the area that has almost certainly gone out of business.

Do you know anything about it? It certainly is an impressive model.

Philip D. Supina
Harrogate, TN


I suspect you saw the old fiberglass Walker-Roemer cow which, from the late 1960s to until ’96, had adorned a spinning platform atop a Metairie billboard at the dairy headquarters. Barbe’s, another local dairy, then bought the cow. In 2000 the cow was sold to Browns Velvet Dairy, headquartered at 1300 Baronne St.

The cow, hardly the world’s largest fake bovine, measures 12 feet tall by 18 feet long. Her sizeable udder, in case you were wondering, has six-inch teats.

For the record, the Blaine Kern Studios is known to have made a 40-foot-tall, 13,000-pound mechanical model of the Chick-fil-A cow. Another massive fiberglass Holstein, measuring 38 feet high by 50 feet long and weighing in at six tons, is a popular roadside attraction in New Salem, N.D. Known as Salem Sue, the Sculpture Manufacturing Company of LaCrosse, Wis., built her for the New Salem Lions Club in order to honor and promote the local dairy industry.

Julia and Poydras,
Recently, I was near Conti and Dumaine streets and noticed a building with a pink facade.

There was a TV reality show; I believe it was called “French Quarter Wedding Chapel.” Is this the same chapel, or was it just a prop?

Dianna Lynn
Melbourne, FL


Yes, the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, located at 333 Burgundy St., is quite pink and was recently featured in the reality television series “Big Easy Brides.” A real wedding chapel, it was incorporated in 2003 and is run by Reverend Anthony “Tony” Talavera and his wife Lutricia Ann “Lou Ann.”
 

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