Finding this home was a “happy accident”
Owning a three-story mansion on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., may seem like the ultimate achievement for a successful couple like Ross McWilliams and Jim Simpson, but the Lower Garden District home they own in New Orleans makes their choices of residential property amazing. “It’s the best of both worlds to also own an historic home in the Lower Garden District,” says Jim, as he sits on the back porch of the 1866 home on a quiet street just a block from the Garden District. Both Ross and Jim are involved in real estate in Washington, so you can be sure both of their homes are special.
“Finding our present home in New Orleans was just a happy accident,” Ross says. “We weren’t really looking to relocate from the home we owned in the Marigny Triangle, but termites drove us out of our place for six months and a friend who lives near us in D.C. and owns the house next door to the Lower Garden District home we now own told us about the house that was being restored. We drove over to take a look and while we were standing out front, Guy Carpenter of Supreme Restorations, who had bought the home when the long-time owner died, drove up and showed us the house – and that was that. We bought the house.”
“Guy had already gotten the exterior porches back on and had put the exterior back together and painted the house,” Jim says. “So we basically had a blank slate for the interior and yard. I don’t think we could have achieved the end result without Guy’s input and assistance. He made the process a good adventure.”
TOP, LEFT: French doors flanking the fireplace open onto the rear porch. TOP, RIGHT: The back porch is a favorite relaxing retreat for the homeowners. BOTTOM: Ross McWilliams and Jim Simpson with Ellie Mae, their Labrador Retriever.
The property is part of the land of a former plantation and went through several owners before the present house was built by Edward Beebe, a sugar broker. “The second owner was Benjamin Franklin Flanders, who was the Mayor of New Orleans at the time.” Jim says. “Flanders was appointed Mayor by carpetbagger Governor Henry Clay Warmoth. He then was elected to a two-year term as Mayor, and later President Ulysses S. Grant named him assistant treasurer of the United States at New Orleans.
The complete researched history of the house also provided us the tidbit of information that it was Flanders who welcomed the first Rex and the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia for the 1872 Mardi Gras.”
Both Ross and Jim marvel at their good fortune to find such a wonderful house. “Having lived in the Marigny Triangle before relocating the Lower Garden District, it’s the trees and the space of our home that I like the most,” Ross says, while Jim adds, “When I’m walking our dog in the Lower Garden District and the Garden District, I never fail to see something remarkable that I’ve never noticed before.”
TOP, LEFT: The master bedroom features antiques and lush linens. TOP, RIGHT: The walls in the study are painted a rich brown; the antique French poster over the fireplace, advertising breath mints, adds to the drama of the room. BOTTOM, LEFT: A pair of comfortable sofas flank the fireplace in the living room; a dramatic antique French poster hangs over the fireplace. BOTTOM, RIGHT: The master bathroom features a soaking tub and a separate shower.
Ross and Jim enjoyed acquiring the eclectic furnishing for the home. “We sourced antiques from local dealers such as DOP Antiques and Renaissance Antiques; new furnishing from Doerr Furniture and Eclectic Home; floor covering from Modern Carpet and Nola Rugs; and the lush window treatments from Katie Koch.” Jim says. “Most of our major art pieces are from Orange Gallery on Royal Street.”
Landscape architect Peter Raarup is credited with the design of the yard. “He gave us a great design plan that captured the look and feel that we wanted,” Ross says. “The warm climate garden and plantings are an escape from winters in D.C.”
The sleek modern kitchen at the rear of the house features custom antiqued white cabinets.
Jim’s favorite space in the home is the back porch. “The exposure and light are terrific combined with the fragrances from the garden and the relaxing splash of the fountains in the swimming pool,” Jim says. “I like the entire rear side of the house, and the way the kitchen and den open up to the porch, garden and pool,” Ross adds.
“The character of the home and neighborhood just makes for a comfortable environment,” Ross says. And, both agree that their Lower Garden District home and living part of the time in New Orleans is a wonderful respite from the pace of D.C.