Layers of History
One of the oldest structures on Lee Circle has gone through many iterations.
The building at 1032 St. Charles Ave., has a history as interesting as its current look. One of the oldest structures on Lee Circle, it was built around 1883, replacing an antebellum frame house. Its unique look comes from the various periods of architectural styles – including Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire and late Victorian – all joined together to create a look unlike any other.
One of its earliest uses was as the office of Dr. Elizabeth Magus Cohen, who wasn’t only the first female physician in New Orleans but also the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana. After graduating from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Cohen came to New Orleans in 1857. Though she was faced with recurring epidemics of smallpox and typhoid and yellow fevers, she was known as one of New Orleans’ leading surgeons. At the end of her 30-year career, she claimed that she never lost a patient during surgery.
In more recent years, the space has served as dining and drinking establishments. From 1996-’99, it was Fleur de Lee Restaurant. Chef Billy Brigsten (son of Frank Brigsten of Brigsten’s Restaurant) headed the popular but small 24-seat dining room. During renovations at this time, a lovely, historic mural was uncovered. It remains exposed for viewing by the bar.
Since 1999, the building has hosted the Circle Bar, a live-music venue. Currently closed for much-needed renovations, it’s set to reopen soon. When it does, make sure to see the K&B clock that serves as a ceiling light, giving off a purple glow.
To learn more about the history of bars (and cocktails!) in New Orleans, attend New Orleans’ own Tales of the Cocktail conference, celebrating its ninth year, from July 20-24.
Circa 1910, the car at the far left is starting to turn around Lee Circle after passing by a row of buildings on St. Charles Avenue that mostly aren’t there anymore. All except the three-story house at the end were demolished sometime before 1921, when the Bienville Apartments (aka Tivoli Place) were erected. The surviving structure, directly opposite the Lee monument, is now home to the Circle Bar. Photo by Alexander Allison, provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library