JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
A relative sent me this photo of my great-grandmother. Can you tell me when J. Frazier Photographer was in operation on Royal Street in New Orleans? The clothes she’s wearing seem to be of the late 1800s. If I can know when it was, I may be able to figure out if this is really her; I restore old photos as a hobby and would want to be sure. The photo is one of the thick cardboard type.
Beverly A. Hall
Joseph Frazier’s photographic studio operated at its 111 Royal St. location for only about six years. Your photo was taken no earlier than 1875 and no later than 1881. Unfortunately, the picture is unidentified so, unless your family has other images that resemble the subject in this photograph, you may just have to trust that it depicts your great-grandmother and not just a sad-looking stranger.
With the current topic of removing monuments, including Jefferson Davis, in the news, it reminded me of information I found years ago in The Story of Algiers, 1718-1896 by Wm. H. Seymour, 1971. On pages 96, 97 and 99 there was a reprint of “A Historical Home – Written in 1889.” It stated that in Tunisburg, below Algiers, was the ruins of an old fashioned mansion wherein W. B. Howell, father-in-law of Jefferson Davis, resided when he was a Naval Officer of the Customs at the Port of New Orleans. Davis bought the home from his relative on Jan. 3, 1853, and would visit from time to time from Mississippi. But the property was seized by the United States authorities after the occupation of New Orleans. It was sold under the confiscation act for a nominal sum by Cuthbert Bullitt, then United States Marshall, in May 1865. The buyer was Joseph Cazaubon, then a French citizen and my immigrant ancestor.
In September 1872, Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina Howell renounced for due consideration to Cazaubon any future claim to the property. Cazaubon lived there with his family until his death in 1899. By that time, a modern street grid divided the property. Some of his children can be found in the 1900, 1910 (and beyond) censuses on the same property then named Newton, Diana, Odeon and Orleans streets located downriver of the U.S. Navy Yard. I have never been able to find a photograph or other type of image of this home and I’m hoping you and Poydras will be more successful. I don’t suppose Poydras spends much time hanging out with the pigeons on any of these monuments.
Gayle Cazaubon Buckley
Gayle, Poydras doesn’t like pigeons. He complains that they take all the good spots on statues.
We didn’t find an image of the Howell-Davis home, which Seymour indicated was in ruins when he wrote about it in 1889. There is, however, more to the story and, unfortunately, it shows your immigrant ancestor’s ownership lasted until Jefferson Davis’s death in 1889, not his own demise in 1899. It should be noted, however, that Cazaubon still held other property in the vicinity. If you still have your 1971 facsimile reprint of Seymour’s 1896 The Story of Algiers, read page 11, which explains that Davis’ renunciation applied only to himself and not to his heirs. Following Jefferson Davis’ death in 1889, his widow and daughters sought to have the Howell home returned to them. William H. Seymour represented the Davis heirs in their successful 1892 lawsuit.
Four years later, Seymour would recount some of the property’s colorful history in his pamphlet The Story of Algiers, 1718-1896. He remained interested in the house and, in April 1902, presented before the Louisiana Historical Society a paper about “The Davis-Howell House at Tunisburg.” At the time of that writing, the house was in ruins. I have been unable to determine when it was demolished, but it has not survived to the present day.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have some old memories of a couple of buildings or houses built by an ancestor, Arnaud Magnon. He was a carpenter and shipbuilder I believe.
I have heard that he built the first three-story building in the French Quarter, maybe on or near St. Peter and Royal streets. Another I believe was built on Ursuline, near the river and was his home.
Are the above statements true? Are the buildings still there?
Arnaud Magnon, who died in 1821 at the age of 80, was a shipbuilder and owned property in the Vieux Carré, but he neither owned nor is credited with building the Pedesclaux-Le Monnier House at 636-642 Royal St. that came to be known as the “First Skyscraper.” In 1795, Pierre Pedesclaux hired architect Barthelemy Lafon to design a multi-story home at that location. The owner had some literally lofty ideas but lacked the money to carry them out. The property went to sheriff sale in 1811, where Dr. Yves Rene Le Monnier and Francois Granschamps purchased it. Soon after Le Monnier’s purchase, architects Latour and Laclotte added a fourth floor to what had previously been a three-story structure.
Magnon’s ownership of a townhouse that was built for him and still stands at 618-622 Ursulines St. is certain. In 1819, Arnaud Magnon paid architect Gurlie and Guillot $15,000 to design the two-story building for him. At the time Magnon hired the architects, he was 78 years old – a very advanced age that was more than double the average life expectancy for that era. Because of Magnon’s age and the fact that he passed away less than two years later, it seems likely he may have been in frail health when his home was erected. It seems unlikely the elderly shipbuilder played a physically active role in constructing his residence.
Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for a tour and Creole breakfast for two at Degas House or a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Gayle Cazaubon Buckley, Meraux, Louisiana; and John Magnon, Fairhope, Alabama.