Maison Vitry, located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, is a creole mansion built for the free woman of color, Louise Arsene Vitry. Established in 1856, during New Orleans’ golden age, the home is an architectural gem and features 14 foot ceilings, original plaster moldings, mantles, and frescoes, a solid mahogany staircase, cast iron balconies, and marbelized base boards.
The Louise Vitry house was built in 1855 for Free Woman of Color, Louise Arsene Vitry by her consort, Achille Barthelmy Courcelle, a Frenchman. Louise Vitry (1818? – 1867) was born in Louisiana to parents who came to New Orleans fleeing the Haitian Slave Revolts of the 1790’s. Mr. Courcelle was an early New Orleans builder whose works include the house at 926 Esplanade among others. There are many details in the 926 Esplanade House that are similar to the Louise Vitry House including the ironwork, staircase, and triple-paneled window casings. The couple, who were not allowed to marry because of miscegenation laws, lived together some 20 years and had 4 children, Philomene (b.1837), Rosella (b. 1841), Laure (b. 1843), and Marianne Emilie (b. 1846).
In 1857, there was a bank panic, and Courcelle, who was heavily in debt, sued Louise Vitry for possession of the house. In 1858, Courcelle lost his case. He appealed to the Louisiana State Supreme Court, which subsequently ruled in Vitry’s favor. The Supreme Court document, hand written in both French and English, is over 200 pages in length and had a “Notarial Archives” type drawing attached to it showing how the house looked at the time. This drawing has disappeared from the archive in the last 30 years.
The original lot of the house spanned an entire block in depth from Dumaine Street to St. Phillip Street. It is also noted in the Supreme Court Case that Louise Vitry was allowed to keep their 7 slaves. Louise apparently left the city of New Orleans sometime during or soon after the civil war and died in Brooklyn, NY in 1867. The carte-de-visite images that we have of Louise Vitry and her grand daughter were taken in Brooklyn sometime between 1864-1867.
Room rentals are also available. If you truly want to experience history and the whole funky New Orleans vibe, you’d be hard pressed to do better that this. The house has been featured in films, HBO’s Treme, has been photographed by world renown photographers, and is due to be in an upcoming book on Creole New Orleans.
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