ONCE CONDEMNED

New life for a Marigny Creole cottage

From the curb there is no evidence that the charming home in the Marigny was once gutted by fire. Barry’s company, Bywater Woodwork Inc., rebuilt the home as a showplace to its ability to create fine restorations.

CHERYL GERBER PHOTOGRAPHS

On Royal Street in Faubourg Marigny, contractor Barry Siegel  lives with his wife, Gracia, in an impressive Creole Cottage. It looks exactly like its sister next door, but this isn’t your cookie-cutter historic double shotgun. Built in 1860, the home had suffered a devastating fire when the couple discovered it in 2000. “Gracia read about the house in the Preservation Resource Center’s Preservation In Print publication,” Barry says. “The house had been condemned, and the city was going to tear it down. The PRC was desperate to find someone to purchase it to prevent it from becoming a vacant lot in an otherwise-intact block of historic houses.”

Here you will find a unique kitchen with 48 drawers and not a hint of a wall cabinet. There is a new curved stairway that looks exactly like the century-old ones you would expect to find in a grand French Quarter mansion.

Upstairs a new balcony juts off the master bedroom, creating an ideal spot to listen to late night jazz coming from nearby Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street.

“When we saw the house, we both loved the location and I knew Barry could do a great job making it a comfortable home for us,” Gracia says. “After a lot of hard work, we were almost ready to move into the house when Hurricane Katrina hit. Fortunately, the house only received minor damage, while our lakefront home flooded.

Our solution was to move into the unfinished structure and work to get it completed.”

The original footprint of the double consisted of a main house with a separate dependency building in the back.

“We totally rebuilt the front and back building, then joined the two with new construction,” Barry says. “The dining room on the first floor and the sunroom upstairs are the new additions, making our present home a comfortable, modern 3,250-square-foot home.”

Barry had no trouble replicating the other historic buildings on the street. His company, Bywater Woodworks, has been a state licensed construction company since 1984, specializing in architectural millwork and details, and mainly involved with the restoration of old buildings such as the one it’s currently working on for the Historic New Orleans Collection at the corner of Chartres and Conti streets in the French Quarter.

Originally the house was a double, but the couple converted it into a single residence. “We opened up the core of the home to provide a large space that includes the kitchen, living and dining areas,” Barry says. “We built a stepped up trey ceiling in the master bedroom and added a vaulted ceiling in a second bedroom to enhance the visual volume of both rooms.” The final floor plan includes four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms.”

Fulfilling the challenge of creating 16 new pairs of French doors with transoms was exciting for Barry, but his favorite construction project was building the new kitchen. “We made the lower cabinets with antique re-milled red pine and used the same wood on the floors.”

The result is a home with all the modern convenience you would find in a fine new house. “We even have the very latest in kitchen appliances,” Gracia says. All the appliances, except the refrigerator, are Fisher & Paykel; ConServ built the pair of refrigerators.”

The couple likes the granite counter and island tops, but the most unique feature in the kitchen is the drawers that pull out one inch beyond full extension to allow for easy access to everything inside. “We decided not to use wall cabinets,” Barry says. “We wanted the leave the space open for hanging Gracia’s pottery and for windows to add light to the room.” He adds, “It’s her pottery that puts the personal finishing touch on almost every room in the house. We constantly marvel at our good fortune to live in an historic neighborhood with such a wonderful home.”
 

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