New Orleans Garden District Walking Tour:
Walking Tour Location: New Orleans Garden District
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional costs listed below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Starting Point: Third Street Street Car Stop
End Of Tour: Washington Avenue Street Car Stop
Walking Distance: Approximately 2.2 miles
Time Required: 1.5 Hours of walking (+1 hour for the official cemetery tour)
Best Time To Go: Begin your walk around 9:30am so you can get a coffee at stop #6 and join the 1 hour long SOC Cemetery Tour mentioned at stop #7 which leaves daily at 10:30am.
Getting Here: The historic Saint Charles Street Car only takes 14 minutes from Common Street the edge of the French Quarter (see map). Cost is $1.25 per ride, or $3 for a 1-Day Jazzy Pass which can be purchase from the driver, must have cash in exact change.
Fun Scale: 8.5 out of 10
Overview Of The Garden District:
Our free, self-guided Garden District walking tour is one of the best day time activities New Orleans has to offer. You’ll be able to get a relaxing escape from the madness of Bourbon Street and a taste of the wealthy side of early-day New Orleans. From historic mansions, to beautiful vegetation, and an impressive cemetery, there is a lot to see in the Garden District.
The entire Garden District neighborhood was once the vast Livaudais Plantation, (pronounced Lee-Voo-Day). In 1826, Jacques Livaudais lost ownership of the plantation to his wife Celeste Marigny (sister of Bernard de Marigny) when he failed to show up for a divorce court proceeding. Celeste later sold the family plantation to a group of businessmen in 1832 for $490,000 who quickly parceled off and gridded the land into 80 city blocks. The businessmen saw their new neighborhood as the American answer to the French & Creole dominated Vieux Carré (pronounced Vue Ca-Ray), know today as the French Quarter. There had been an influx of affluent Americans to New Orleans following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and after 30 years later they finally got their own community outside of the the Vieux Carré (meaning the Old Square in French). Originally called the Village of Lafayette, the development efforts paid off immediately as wealthy Americans flocked to build their mansion estates on the edge of New Orleans. In 1835, the Village of Lafayette got an extra luxury when the steam-powered Saint Charles Street Car started service. The Saint Charles Street Car, now electric, is currently the oldest active street car line in the World.
With plenty of space and fertile plantation soil, the mansions in the Village of Lafayette were each surrounded by huge lawns and gardens that spanned up to a full city block. Because of the large lawns, the community was fittingly nicknamed the Garden District. The Garden District name officially stuck when the neighborhood was annexed in a as part of New Orleans in 1852. This incorporation also lead to a second building boom, making the community one of the most desirable to live in. While there are some bigger Antebellum mansions further in the countryside, the Garden District offers a rare chance to see an entire neighborhood of preserved mansions from the 1800s. Strolling past the rod iron fences, Greek Revival facades, and magnolia trees, you’ll fall more in love with the Big Easy. While the lawns aren’t as big as they originally were, it is impressive that so many mansions have together survived the test of time against war, fire, and a number of devastating hurricanes. Still today it is easy to see the combination of both wealth and pride that made the stunning Garden District possible. Hope you enjoy our map and do-it-yourself New Orleans Garden District walking tour.
The Garden District Walking Tour:
*Stepping off the historic Saint Charles Street Car at 3rd Street puts you right in front of the…
1. Claiborne Cottage (2524 St. Charles Avenue): This elegant yellow cottage was built for Sophronie Louise Claiborne in 1857. Sophronie was extremely well connected in New Orleans as her father was William Claiborne who served as Louisiana’s 1st Governor in 1812. Prior to moving to Louisiana, her father had filled Andrew Jackson’s seat in the US Congress in Tennessee while Jackson served as President of the United States. After her father’s time Governor, William also served in the US Senate. Sophronie’s husband Antonie Mandeville de Marigny was a US Marshal after serving in the French Army and was also very well connected from his own wealthy family. His father, Bernard de Marigny, got rich from the Marigny family sugar mill and plantation established in 1829 North of Lake Pontchartrain. With a playboy reputation, Bernard gained hero status in the Creole community after being elected President of the Louisiana Senate. Bernard’s sister Celeste de Marigny is also the one who sold the Livaudais Plantation in 1832 to create the Garden District neighborhood. As you can see from connecting all the dots, this was the ultimate power family.
The Redemptorist Fathers later bought the Claiborne Cottage in 1923 to be a chapel, but ended up converting it into a school instead. After later being turned back into a home, a 14 year old Anne Rice moved here when her family rented it in 1955. Just 2 block from her childhood home, the young author Rice was deeply inspired by the cozy Claiborne Cottage during her teenage years. Forty years later in 1995, Rice bought the Cottage and it became the primary setting for her famous ghost novel Violin published in 1997. In the book, the main character Triana sees a ghost playing a violin on the street corner in front of the house. This is just one of the many Anne Rice related stops you will visit on the New Orleans Garden District walking tour.
*As you reach the end of the first block, look for the unique windows of the…
2. Briggs-Staub House (2605 Prytania Street): When Charles Briggs had this Gothic Cottage built in 1849, most of his rich neighbors looked down on the Gothic Style, but Briggs was from London and didn’t care what they thought. The neighbors real reason for not liking the style is because it reminded them, mostly Protestant, of their Catholic Creole counterparts living on the French Quarter. Even though the cottage isn’t mansion sized, we really like how it contrasts the other homes in the area with its small, church-like windows. The Charles Briggs’ home was also one of the first in the neighborhood to have Irish indentured servants and free men of color as workers instead of using slaves. The home is still considered the only Gothic-style mansion in the Garden District. You will get a better view of the front of the Briggs home when we pass by it again in a few stops.
*Taking up half of a city block are the beautiful grounds of…
3. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel (2523 Prytania Street): Built in the mid-1800’s by merchant Henry Lonsdale, this is one of the most iconic homes on our New Orleans Garden District walking tour. Lonsdale had started his career as a 16 year old burlap trader, then hit it big after the Civil War with a unique blend of coffee mixed with bitter chicory roots. The blend was first introduced in the after a French blockage in the early-1800’s, but thanks to Lonsdale, is still very popular in New Orleans today. In 1925 the Redemptorist Fathers bought this Greek Revival-style mansion and turned it into a Catholic Chapel. The Redemptorist Fathers were in desperate need of a new chapel as the group’s church had been badly damaged by a hurricane in 1918.
Local writer Anne Rice bought the Chapel as a home in 1996 and used it for some of the scenes in her book the Violin. Even at 13,000 square feet, the Chapel was only a fraction of Rice’s primary home at the huge former Saint Elizabeth Orphanage on the far West side of the Garden District. The coolest remaining element from the mansion’s time as a chapel is a vine-covered, iron cast pavilion near the fence line which shields a statue of the Virgin Mary. The pavilion is capped with a dedication to “Our Mother of Perpetual Help” in big letters and a large gold cross. Actor Nicolas Cage later lived here from 2005 until 2009 before hitting foreclosure and the property is currently part of the Saint George Episcolpal School.
4. Women’s Opera Guild Home (2504 Prytania Street): This magnificent mansion was built in 1859 for merchant Edward Davis. It was later purchased in 1944 by Doctor & Mrs Herman Seebold who then willed it to Women’s Opera Guild upon their deaths in 1965. The mansion was originally filled with European & American furniture, artwork, and antiques from the 1700-1800’s and most of it is still on display there today. The well preserved interior is fitting as the Opera Guild itself has been in New Orleans since 1796. Because of the strong attention to detail with the furnishings, the mansion has been featured in numerous Hollywood films including Elsa & Peter as well as Django Unchained. Today the Women’s Opera Guild Home is available to rent for weddings, receptions, dinners, luncheons, coffees, teas and beautiful social events.
Guided Tours: Mondays from Mid-September-May from 10am-4pm for $15. Outside of the official tour times you can also enter for $37 with the Grey Line walking tour company, but it’s the only home they enter so following our free walking tour makes more sense. Mansion Website: (HERE).
5. “Cornstalk Fence” House (1448 Fourth Street): The “Cornstalk Fence” House, also known as Colonel Short’s Villa, is one of the most beautiful homes in New Orleans. In 1859, merchant Colonel Robert Short bought the empty lot and began work on what is maybe the most popular home on this free Garden District walking tour. The main draw to the magnolia lined mansion is the decorative rod iron cornstalk fence that circles the entire lawn. It is said that Short ordered the lavish custom fence for his wife after she started to miss the cornfields of her native Iowa. The fence itself was cast by the Foundry of Wood all the way in Philadelphia which was a fairly expensive thing to do back then. During the Civil War in 1863, Short’s Villa was seized by the Federal Army and served as the home to the new Federal Governor of Louisiana Michael Hahn. This arrangement was short-lived however as the US Government returned the home to Colonel Short right after the Civil War and he lived here until his death in 1890.
6. “The Rink” Garden District Bookshop (2727 Prytania Street): Originally called the Crescent City Skating Rink, this historic bookstore started out as a wooden floor roller rink built for the 1884 World’s Fair. The Rink, as it was nicknamed, became very popular as rollerskating was a huge craze at the time. After staking died out, the building was later used as a livery stable, a mortuary, a grocery store, and a gas station. Today the building holds a series of small shops and a popular bookshop which is a favorite of local famous writer Anne Rice. Anne often holds book signings at the bookstore, but in case you don’t catch her, they always have signed books on hand that you can buy. The bookshop always seems to have an event of some kind going on and their selection of novels set in New Orleans are awesome. If you need a little pick-me-up or snack for your walk stop in the Still Perkin Cafe on the street level corner of the Rink building. One of the local specialty coffees served here is blended with bits of Chicory root which started during a French blockage in the early 1800s and became more widely popular after the Civil War.
7. Lafayette Cemetery #1 (1400 Washington Avenue): The historic, and spooky, Lafayette Cemetery #1 was established in 1833 with Spanish-style above ground tombs, the same year a Yellow Fever outbreak hit the city. The large family tombs were often called Cities of the Dead as they followed grids of walkways resembling streets. While above ground cemeteries were also popular in France and Spain at the time, it became an important way to do things in New Orleans. Formed off the swampy delta of the Mississippi River, New Orleans has a very high water table and large parts of the city sitting below sea level, which made burials difficult. Placing caskets more than a couple feet under the ground put them into soggy, waterlogged soil which often slowly pushed the below ground caskets back to the surface. Another reason for using above ground tombs was that bodies didn’t decompose well in the swampy soil, but cremation was still frowned upon. The large tombs would basically serve as cement ovens in the Summer heat, quickly breaking down the bodies and wooden caskets. After 1 year and 1 day had passed, the bones would be pushed to the back of the tomb and another member of the family could take its place. When epidemic would hit and a large number of bodies were buried above ground at once, it caused horrible smells so the practice was banned except in existing cemeteries.
Famous figures buried here include Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson separate-but-equal case, Brigadier General Harry T. Hays who led the 1st Louisiana Brigade in the Civil War, and the Brunies family of jazz musicians. Walking among the shades tombs is and learning the history quite enjoyable and is really great if you like taking photos. Perhaps the most famous tombs of the cemetery are the fictional ones. Among the fictional characters to buried here are family of Mayfair Witches from Anne Rice’s Witching Hour book series and the vampire Lestat from the another Rice novel Interview with a Vampire. In 1994 Interview with a Vampire was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and all the cemetery scenes were filmed at Lafayette Cemetery #1. Numerous other movies have also been filmed here including Double Jeopardy in 1999.
Cemetery Hours: Dawn to Dusk. Entrance Cost: Free to walk through and explore. Guided Tours: The best tour is run by Save Our Cemeteries (website). Their 1 hour tour leaves Daily at 10:30am and costs $15, but is free for kids. Get to the cemetery gates 10-15 minutes early and bring cash. The tour by Save Our Cemeteries goes very in-depth not only into the cemetery itself, but also the time in which it grew, and how it contrasts with cemeteries in the French Quarter. Other tour companies charge from $30 to $50 per person for pretty much the same tour, however, the money that Save Our Cemeteries makes goes toward restoration of the tombs. Cemetery Safety: While the other historic cemeteries in the French Quarter can be dangerous to visit alone, even during the day, this one is pretty safe just like the rest of the central Garden District. We always use caution in any big city, but have had no issues and always felt comfortable at this cemetery.
8. Commander’s Palace Restaurant (1403 Washington Avenue): Emile Commander started a large Saloon here in 1880 which was often visited by famous clients from Jefferson Davis and Mark Twain. By the 1900’s Commander’s Palace had already turned into one of the top restaurants in the Unites States. Today the Restaurant is still one of the best and its classic bright blue and white exterior taking up half a city block if a favorite amount photographers. It is one of the most popular places for locals to eat, especially for weekend brunch.
Restaurant Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30am-2pm; Dinner Daily 6:30-10pm; Jazz Brunch Saturday & Sunday 10:30am-1pm. Dress Code: No shorts or t-shirts. Jackets preferred at dinner. Men must wear closed toed shoes. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
*Movie fans always love the…
9. “Benjamin Button” House (2705 Coliseum Street): Built in 1832, this large white house draws in tourists as it served as the main house in the Brad Pitt movie Benjamin Button. In the movie, based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, the lead character Benjamin Button is raised in this home. If you’ve seen the movie you can recall many of the scenes which take place on both the porch and steps leading up to the home. Although other homes on this free Garden District walking tour are more impressive, the Benjamin Button House continues to be a tourist favorite.
*Make sure to check out the creole-style James McCracken House on the way to…
10. Koch-Mays House (2627 Coliseum Street): The postcard perfect Koch-Mays House was built by US Senator and Ambassador to France James Eustis in 1876. It’s said that the inspiration for the the style of the home came from a plate in a home catalog. The coolest thing about the home’s layout is how the 3 main sections of the house are staggered to maximize the sunlight each area gets no matter what time of day it is. Later owned by historian Richard Koch. Has been the home to actress to Sandra Bullock since 2009.
11. Walter Robinson House (1415 Third Street): Walter Robinson, a banker from Virginia, was able to build this mansion in 1859 thanks to the fortune he made off tobacco. The mansion is one of the first in the Garden District to have 15-foot-high ceilings and the 1st in New Orleans to have indoor plumbing thanks to a water collection roof design. The Walter Robinson House has been featured in many movies over the years including Jason Statham’s The Mechanic in 2011. The neighboring carriage house has been turned into a home itself and is believed to have been part of the large plantation that covered the neighborhood before it was divided out into the Garden District.
12. Musson-Bell House (1331 Third Street): This big pink house was originally completed in 1850 for the wealthy tobacco grower, and President of the Cotton Exchange, Michael Musson. He was one of the few Creoles to build mansions in the largely American Garden District. Musson was also the uncle of painter Edgar Degas who stayed a short time before moving back to the Quarter to be closer to the other Creoles. After the Civil War began to dig into his fortune Musson sold the home to a new new owner added the beautiful black cast iron gallery in 1884.
13. Montgomery-Hero House (1213 Third Street): The president of the Crescent City Railroad, Archibald Montgomery, had this large Swiss Chalet-style house built in 1867 to reflect new homes he liked on America’s Northeastern coast. It’s interesting the the property has retained its large 360 degree lawn over the years as many of the homes divided out their lots and now have other homes really close to them.
14. “Stained Glass” House (1137 Second Street): The Stained Glass House is very unique to the Garden District and the Victorian style was mainly in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. What really stands out though is the over the top amount stained glass that lines the doors and windows of the home.
15. Warwick Manor (2427 Camp Street): Built for merchant Hiram Anderson in 1852, this huge pink mansion has served as a home and also as a private school for wealthy children. Since its heyday, Warwick Manor is one of the only mansions in the Garden District that has been divided into a multi-unit apartment building. Knowing that so many different people live here now makes it hard to imagine that it used be a home for a just a single family when it was built.
16. “Jefferson Davis” House (1134 First Street):Officially called the Payne-Strachan House, this mansion was built in 1849 for Jacob Payne who got rich marketing and shipping cotton. Payne was very well connected from is own business and from his son-in-law Charles Fenner who was a local judge. One of Fenner’s friends was Jefferson Davis, who was President of the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was brought to the Payne House after becoming ill and later died in the upstairs of the home on December 6th, 1889.
17. “Mayfair Manor” (1239 First Street): The eerie Brevard-Rice House was built in 1857 by merchant Albert Hamilton Brevard. The section facing Chestnut Street was built as a library wing. Anne Rice fans will know it as Mayfair Manor as the author bought the home in 1989. Anne used the home as the setting for her famous book The Witching Hour which started a series about the fictional Mayfair family of witches who lived in the home. Rice was already renown for her other hit series of books called The Vampire Chronicles.
18. Carroll-Crawford House (1315 First Street): In the 1860’s, bricklayer Samuel Jamison decided to try his had at building houses on his own. His successful career began here with a home built for Virginia cotton man Joseph Carroll. Completed in 1869, the design included one of Jamison’s signatures with the amazing plaster work which can be seen throughout the interior. The outside of Carroll-Crawford House just screams Halloween with its dark iron accents and gnarly oak trees. The exterior grounds are truly stunning. Maybe the coolest thing is that author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) often came to the huge parties the original owner Joseph Carroll would throw. While this is one of the coolest home in New Orleans, it is not the inspiration of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion as some other websites say as they look nothing alike. Disney used the Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore for the mansion in his theme park.
19. Morris-Israel House (1331 First Street): Along with the mansion you just saw at 1315 1st Street, this was bricklayer Samuel Jamison’s second home as a new builder. It was also completed in 1869, but has a little different style to it. Even more than the style, maybe the largest difference in the two homes is that locals tell us that this one is haunted. The biggest scare that happened here was when a skull and bones were found under some floor boards during repairs to the mansion. It’s not so much that everyone feels there are ghosts that reside inside the house, but that ghosts are drawn to the home and try to get in your pictures after dark. If you remember the Musson-Bell House from stop #11, you’ll notice it looks almost exactly like this one as Jamison had worked on it with other partners in 1859 before starting his solo career.
20. “Seven Sisters” Houses (2329-2305 Coliseum Street): Local folklore says that these houses were made for a wealth man who wanted all 7 of his daughters to live by each other. The story is more legend than truth and there are actually 8 houses but they are still unique. What makes them cool is that they were all designed as side-hall Shotgun Houses. This mean that if you shot a shotgun through the front door of any of the long 1-room-wide houses the pellets would pass untouched through the back of the house. These skinny houses are still very today popular today mainly in New Orleans’ poor neighborhoods.
21. Joseph Merrick Jones House (2425 Coliseum Street): Built in 1850, this huge house became home to lawyer Joseph Merrick Jones in the mid-1900s. In addition to being an attorney, Jones also served as Secretary for Public Affairs for the US State Department in WW2. He continued serving the State Department off and on but is best known as the President of Tulane University where he had gone to college. Jones became one of the first school presidents in the country to allow integration in 1963, but he and his wife were killed in a house fire shortly after. A student hall at Tulane was later named in his honor.
In the 1990’s, Rockstar Trent Reznor from the band Nine Inch Nails lived in Jones former home and was known for throwing huge parties. Large parties are fun, unless your neighbor happens to be a local Council Woman (Peggy Wilson), so it didn’t take long for a noise ordnance to kick in and drive Trent away. Celebrities seem to love the house as actor John Goodman then became the next owner in 2005. John’s wife Annabeth even owns a children’s clothing store called Pippen Lane located at 2930 Magazine Street.
22. Pritchard House (1407 First Street): In 1858 wealthy cotton farmer Richard Pritchard started building this home, although it took him many years to finish it. The next owner tried to completely change the style and remove the Greek columns in the early 1900’s, but did a very poor renovation. Luckily in the 1990s Dr. John Piggot bought the Pritchard House and resorted it to its former glory. With its 4 powerful columns, the Pritchard House is one of the few really great examples of Greek revival in the Garden District. We have always been a fan of the grand Romanesque columns on mansions as it tends to make them look even bigger than they are.
*Make sure to check out the neighbors carriage step on your way to…
23. Archie Manning House (1420 First Street): This was the home of beloved former NFL Quarterback Archie Manning who played for the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s. Archie is still highly regarded by football fans in New Orleans even he didn’t win a Championship because he showed great loyalty by staying with the Saints even though he was the team’s only bright spot. For people who didn’t follow the Saints the 1970’s know Archie better as the father of his Super Bowl winning sons Eli & Peyton Manning. Both of the boys in this stellar football family and their brother older Cooper all grew up in this house. Cooper is a little lesser known outside of New Orleans as he had to end his very promising football career early due to medical issues with his spine in college. You can imagine the family all playing catch in the large front yard.
24. “Toby’s Corner” House (2340 Prytania Street): Philadelphia plantation manager Thomas Toby built this timeless home in 1838, making it the oldest home in the Garden District still standing today. Toby’s plantation background is definitely visible as the home is built in a Creole-style much like the famous Laura Plantation just outside of New Orleans. A series of columns circle the entire house creating a covered wrap around patio and the raised brick foundation not only protects floods, but also helps to circulate air in the mid-Summer heat. If you look closely you can even see the fountain with a sugar cane bowl which also ties back to Toby’s roots as a plantation manager. There used to be a sweeping staircase leading from the 2nd floor into the home’s large garden, but it was removed during a remodel shortly before Toby lost the home to foreclosure in 1858. There to quickly buy Toby’s Corner was Thomas Dugan of the Westfeldt Family who still owns the mansion today. We love the heavy foliage which creates almost a jungle of a yard and gives you a great vision into why the Garden District got its nickname.
25. “Horse” House (1500 First Street): This large pink house has a giant relief below its front gable of two large white horses. There are also numerous horse elements through the lawn sparking us to dub it the Horse House. We really couldn’t find much verifiable info on the beautiful mansion, but it is one of our favorite in the neighborhood to take photos of. By far one of the most memorial stops on the free Garden District walking tour.
26. Bradish Johnson House (2343 Prytania Street): This amazing mansion was built in 1872 for Bradish Johnson, who had gotten super rich from his family’s sugar cane plantations. Bradish’s Whitney Plantation, named after his grandson, opened for tours in 2014 and focuses on the lives of the salves, (more info). The impressive Garden District home built with the plantation income cost of $100,000 to build which was a huge amount of money back then, equal to over $1.5 million today.
Since 1929 the Mansion has served as the private Louise S. McGehee School (website) for girls which was founded in 1912. The move helped the school grow from 30 to over 200 students with classes starting at 5th grade. The school has since expanded to cover an entire city block with pre-kidengarden through high school buildings, but the Bradish House is still used for academics. To get an idea of the scale of the original Bradish property, the old carriage house is now the school gym and stable is the cafeteria. Today the McGehee School is very esteemed in not only academics, but also arts and athletics. Thinking about sending your daughter here? Tuition ranged from $11,000-18,000 per year.
27. Buckner Mansion (1410 Jackson Street): Wealthy cotton grower Henry Sullivan Buckner had this plantation-style mansion built in 1856. The 22,000 square foot home has 48 Ionic and Corinthian fluted cypress columns on wraparound double galleries. In addition to the sure size of the home and number of columns, the mansion also has excellent iron work and floor-to-ceiling windows. This is one of the finest examples of Southern Antebellum architecture and elegance still standing inside the city of New Orleans. The huge mansion was home to the prestigious Soule Business School from 1923-1983 before being turned back into a private home. The Buckner Mansion was also one of the filming locations for the hit TV show American Horror Story which filmed its third season in New Orleans.
28. Magnolia Mansion Hotel (2127 Prytania Street): With an eerie history, this mansion was built in 1858 by cotton merchant Alexander Harris for his young bride Elizabeth Thompson. Nicknamed Lizze, Elizabeth was still a minor as the time of their marriage. The mansion was designed by James Calrow who also made the home at 1239 First Street which vampire novelist Anne Rice later used as Mayfair Manor. That is just the start of the spooky connections as there were also a series of unlucky events surrounding Magnolia Mansion.
In 1869 the original owner Alexander Harris and his brother Aaron both mysteriously died from yellow fever with in 24 hours of each other. Alexander’s funeral took place right in the mansion. Following his death, the mansion and family fortune of $200,000 were left to Alexander’s young bride Lizzie. There were huge family trust issues between Lizzie and her family following the deaths. The cast aside her brother-in-law’s widow and then shortly after remarrying Lizze sold the mansion and land to cotton miller John Henry Maginnis in 1879 instead of willing it to her own children.
John Maginnis, who was one of the richest men in the deep South, didn’t last long as he was struck by lightening and killed while on vacation in Mississippi on the 4th of July, 1889. His fortune and 1,000 employee cotton empire was then left to his wife Elizabeth Tweed, who also nicknamed Lizzie just like the first widow owner. Lizzie Maginnis had already had rumors floating around her as her sister had mysteriously died just 2 years before her husband’s lightening strike. The luck started to change when the Maginnis’ daughter Josephine took over the property. Josephine was named the Queen of multiple Mardi Gras parades and hosted many social events. When she died in 1939, Josephine willed the estate to the American Red Cross.
Today the Mansion is not the Widow Maker it started and has served as an award winning bed & breakfast since 2001. The awards range from Most Romantic B&B in Louisiana to one of the Top Ten Haunted Inns in America. Even cooler than the hauntings are the 9 uniquely themed rooms throughout the mansion. The best ones are the Gone With the Wind room with a grand bed and large draped green blinds, the Moulin Rouge themed room, and Lafitte’s pirate hideaway, not to mention the grand common areas. Hotel Website: (HERE).
29. House of Broel (2220 St Charles Ave): In 1851, local merchant George Washington Squires built his home here just before the neighborhood was annexed into the City of New Orleans. The next owner raised the house up and added the current grand 1st floor to the mansion in 1884. The Polish Countess, and local dress maker, Bonnie Broel bought the mansion and threw her own wedding here in 1980. It was such a success that Ms. Broel decided to open her home for tours and other couples weddings. The first floor is staged in all of its 1800’s beauty and has a great intimate feel. Upstairs is the real treat where you can tour the collection of antiques Ms. Broel collected over the decades. The collection includes a desk made for the Duke of Dresden in 1800, a piece of linen from Egypt that is over 2000 years old, a chandelier with hand-blown grapes cascading from its arms.
Maybe the best area of the house is a an extensive collection of magical dollhouses that Ms. Broel personally designed and decorated for over 15 years. The enchanting collection of 60 historically has accurate scale model mansions, houses, and shops filled with elaborately costumed figures from the mind of a dress maker. With great decor, our favorite models are the English manor house, an antebellum plantation, a sweet shop, and a 28 room Russian Palace. The Palace is 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide, and covers almost an entire wall of the second floor hallway. The display is filled with rich tapestries, romantic paintings, fine wall coverings, ornate furniture and period-dressed dolls. The faux Fabergé eggs and spiral staircases of the Palace model remind us of a time before the Russian Revolution, in the early-1900’s. Also featured are charming Victorian homes, an Asian art shop, a Baronial hall and the smallest house of all, a fairy hut complete with lace curtains. Guided Tours: Tours available Monday-Friday 10am-3pm, by appointment only. Call 504-494-2220 for your guided tour. Tour Cost: Adults $10, Children $5. Mansion Website: (HERE).
30. Anne Rice’s Childhood Home (2301 St. Charles Avenue): Fans of Author Anne Rice will be happy to know that this home on St Charles Street is where the famous local author grew up as a child until age 14. This is where Anne’s stories of Vampires and Witches that so many readers have grown to love got their true start. After visiting so many home associated with the author, seeing where the young Anne Rice grew up helps to bring this free New Orleans Garden District walking tour full circle.
31. John Morris House (2525 St. Charles Avenue): In the 1860’s a small cottage stood here with a lot that went an entire block to the North. The large lot bought in 1888 by the wife of gambler John Morris who built the current home you see today. After graduating from Harvard, John Morris started a horse race track outside of New York City. This racing facility hosted the Belmont Stakes from 1890-1904 as well as the Preakness Stakes in 1890. After starting the horse track, Morris moved to New Orleans and invested heavily in stocks of the State Lottery which made him very rich. His wife sold the home when Morris died in 1895. Robert Downman later bought the home and quickly became the King of Mardi Gras or Rex. Each year he would stop the Mardi Gras parade in front of his house to give a toast which the each year’s Rex still does today.
32. Alfred Grima House (2701 St. Charles Avenue): Built by Bicknell Payne in 1859, but drastically remodeled by attorney Alfred Grima in 1890 into an Italianate style. During the remodeling the entrance was moved from 2701 Saint Charles Avene to 1604 Forth Street. When Alfred’s widow Clarisse died in 1981 he donated the property to the Historic Society of New Orleans, but has been a private home since 1987.
Other Nearby Attractions:
*After you finish our free New Orleans Garden District walking tour, consider this worthwhile nearby stops…
33. Elms Mansion (3029 St Charles Avenue): Amazing large white mansion was built in 1869 for, “Yankee in Gray”, Watson Van Benthuysen II. Watson was a relative of Jefferson Davis by marriage and served as an officer in the Confederate Army prior to building his mansion. His wealth mainly came from wine & tobacco trading, but Watson also served as the President of a Saint Charles streetcar company. From 1931 until the start of WWII, the mansion served as the German Consulate. In 1952, John Elms Sr., owner of the largest coin operated amusement company in the South, purchased the home. Since Elms’ death in 1968, the family has been using the mansion to host weddings and special events. Mansion Tours: Self-guided tours are available Tuesdays-Fridays, 10am-2pm. Mansion Website: (Here).
34. Columns Mansion Hotel & Restaurant (3811 Saint Charles Avenue): This enchanting columned mansion was built in 1883 for cigar baron Simon Hernsheim. By the 1890, Simon’s company sold 39 million La Belle Creole cigars a year. After Simon’s death in 1898, the mansion switched hands many times before being turned into the Columns Hotel in the 1980’s. Today the mansion is the only survivor out of a group of Italianate-style mansions that famed local architect Thomas Sully built nearby in the 1880s. The interior of the mansion is still considered one of the grandest in any late-nineteenth century Louisiana residence. One of the most dramatic interior features is the mahogany stairwell which rises to meet an extraordinary square domed, stained glass skylight in a sunburst motif. The Hotel’s Victoria Lounge is one of the most unique places to get a drink in New Orleans as you are transported back into the 1880’s. This is also a great place to grab lunch and recharge from our free self-guided Garden District walking tour. They also have a jazz brunch every Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Mansion Website: (Here).
35. National WW2 Museum (945 Magazine Street): Often considered the best museum in New Orleans. The museum original opened as a D-Day museum as the amphibious Higgins vehicles used in the beach invasions of WW2 were made and tested in New Orleans. As the excellent museum expanded, Congress declared it America’s official National World War II Museum in 2003 and it gained association with the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the many highlights include aircraft displays, D-Day exhibits, plus interactive areas covering the Road to Berlin and the Road to Tokyo. The museum does a great job and letting you experience what the war and planning were like in both Europe and the Pacific. Food is available. Museum Website: (Here).
Hope you enjoyed our free New Orleans Garden District Walking Tour!