Walled in by new real estate, a few yards from the Convention Center sits a historic building nestled on the corner of Race and Religious streets. The 6,500-square-foot property seems to have captured in time, the look and feel of the New Orleans that surrounded it so long ago. Built in 1836 with bricks molded with mud from the Mississippi River, Race + Religious literally has the city in its bones.
The Semmes family bought the two-story Creole cottage and slave quarters that faced Religious Street in 1977. For 30 years, the family lived on the property and worked to restore the house to its original 1800s glory. In 2003, they bought the corner back house and unified the space.
Upon entering the main house, you are immediately transported into a different world. Retro pieces are mixed with antiques and modern amenities. Just by walking through this first floor, one can sense the years of traveling and collecting poured into the decorating and rejuvenation of the space.
The first floor houses a sitting area that opens to a small kitchen. The third floor of the cottage has two bedrooms joined by a bathroom. This area – once used as a bedroom by the family – and the joined space is ideal for bridal parties to prepare for a wedding.
The master bedroom is on the second floor and serves as the bridal suite. The space is light, open, airy and accompanied by its own small balcony overlooking the pool and courtyard.
The second floor of the main cottage also has access to the bridge connecting the house to the slave quarters. The bridge consists of real copper and a secret trap door.
The slave quarters has been refurbished and filled with paintings and furnishings from all over the world. The striking wood ceiling was assembled from row barges that came down the Mississippi River. Since the barges would come down the river, but have no way of going back up they would be disassembled and used for various needs throughout the city. These ceilings give the property extra charm and history.
On the first floor of the slave quarter building you will find two small, quirky bonus rooms. Couples have used these rooms for Bourbon tastings, cigar bars, cake rooms and even tarot card readings. The intimacy of the space allows for a couple to transform the area into whatever lagniappe they desire.
A courtyard connects the slave quarter with the back house. This house, the more modern looking of the three, is where all of the meal prep happens. An industrial style kitchen allows for chefs and caterers alike to whip up exquisite appetizers and tasty entrees. The two focal points of kitchen are the sleek marble countertop, originally from a church in Avignon, France, and the bright red stove still in its place from the ‘70s.
The entire back house is filled with these one of a kind items. A renaissance-era table made from a walnut tree in the 1700s is in the main room accompanied by a serving table used previously at a butcher shop with knife marks still visible. A haunting statue of the Virgin Mary stands near one of the doorways adding to the gothic, antique vibe seen throughout the property.
On the second floor of the back house is a large bedroom. This room is usually used by the groom and his entourage or as a honeymoon suite for the couple.
Our favorite part of the entire property is the romantic courtyard. Ceremonies are usually held between the main cottage and the slave quarters. Twinkling lights, the hint of a spring breeze in the air, surrounded by the couple’s loving friends and family could rival that of an 18th-century Jane Austen novel.
It would take weeks to truly appreciate all of the history and details that have molded Race + Religious into what it is today. From the iron gates to the outdoor fireplaces, the hand painted ceilings on the third floor (by local artist Jeffery Cook) to the wood beams lining the ceiling of the slave quarters – this location has more history and charm than you could ever dream.
-Entire property available to rent over night (or multiple nights)
-Sleeps up to 12 people
-All food and beverages must be brought from outside
-All outside vendors are welcome
-Maximum amount of guests is 275
-140 chairs are possible for a ceremony
-Maximum amount of guests for a seated dinner is 90
Race + Religious – 510 Race Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 – www.raceandreligious.com