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Favorite Building Friday – Pedesclaux-Lemonnier House

For today’s Favorite Building Friday, I would like to share with you another building that Hyacinth Laclotte worked on: the Pedesclaux-Lemonnier House.

This lot was purchased in 1795 by Pierre Pedesclaux, a Notary for the Spanish Government. As a result of the recent fires (1788 and 1794), the lot was empty. He commissioned Barthélémy Lafon to build his home. Lafon was an architect who had designed some stunning homes that can still be seen in the French Quarter today: Bosque House (616 Chartres Street) and the Rillieux House (343 Royal Street). Construction began on this three story home, but Pedesclaux ran out of money before it could be finished. The building (described as “incomplete and unsuitable state”) was auctioned off, and purchased by Yves Lemonnier and François Grandchamps in 1811. The contract to finish the building was awarded to Hyacinth Laclotte. While it is unclear how much of this building the work of each architect, it is clear that there are similarities between this building and the Napoleon House, a home that was designed by Laclotte a decade later. In 1876, a fourth story was added and the once single family dwelling became an apartment building.  Today it is still a multi-family residence.

Exterior of the Pedeslaux- Lemmonier Building.

The building is constructed with bricks covered with plaster, which was scored to resemble stone blocks. It is clear that the third story was originally the top of the building as there is a very deep cornice dividing the third and fourth floors. As for the style of the building, according to Roulhac Toledano, “French Empire motifs such as the two-story pilasters and the corner orientation give the house a sophistication not found in the creole vernacular.”  This sophistication is further shown in the design of the wrought iron balconies which are inscribed with “YLM”, the initials of Yves Lemonnier.

Windows in this building are quite peculiar, as they are not all the same. This is not just a variance from floor to floor, but it would appear that all of the windows on the first floor have been changed throughout the years, and none of them match. The windows on the second and third floors are French Doors which open in. The windows on the second story are shorter than the ones on the third, suggesting that this building is an Entresol Creole Townhouse – which means it has a little storage are between the floor. Lastly, the windows on the top floor are single hung windows, which slide up to open. This type of window was preferred by the Americans – more proof that this floor was built later, during our American Period.

Third Story Floor Plan – Vogt, Historic Buildings of the French Quarter

The building follows the typical Entresol Creole Townhouse plan which includes commercial spaces on the ground floor, residential in the floors above and a storage area between the second and third floors.  Placement on the corner of St. Peter and Royal Street allowed for a circular room on the 3rd floor which is rumored to have a domed ceiling (Unfortunately, I cannot verify as I have never been inside). This building is known as the city’s “first skyscraper”, being that it was full story taller than many buildings of that time. Due to the New Orleans’s swampy soil, stories abound featuring residents who were afraid to walk near the building or bring their carriages down Royal Street, for fear that the vibration would cause the building to tumble down on them.

Earlier this year, the Lemonnier building was placed on the Louisiana Landmarks Society’s nine most endangered building’s list. It is in danger of being demolished due to neglect. According to their website, “The Vieux Carré Commission has cited the owners of the building on numerous occasions for neglect, even filing a suit in 1988 in the Civil District Court for Demolition by Neglect. For the past forty years the house has been in the hands of the same family who, so far, have refused to do what is required to properly care for this grand landmark.” I can only hope that the owners of this historic building can be shamed into doing the right thing and either make the necessary repairs or sell it to someone who can. It would be very disappointing to lose this amazing landmark!

**01/17/18 On a tour last week, I was surprised to notice that the windows of this building were boarded up. On closer inspection, we found a note on the door, that explained that the owner of the building had been granted a permit to do work on the building including: removal of the plaster to repair the underlying walls, replacement of the windows, and repair of the cracks in the stucco. The estimation of cost is $700,000 and should be finished within 60 days. While I was shocked to see the windows were boarded up, I cannot tell you how happy I am that steps are being taken to save this landmark.

Sources Consulted:

  • “2016 New Orleans’ Nine List.” Louisiana Landmarks Society. Accessed November 20, 2016.
  • “The Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Survey.” The Historic New Orleans Collection. Accessed November 30, 2016.
  • Toledano, Roulhac. The National Trust Guide to New Orleans. Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1996.
  • Masson, Ann. “Barthélémy Lafon.” In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published January 20, 2012.
  • Vogt, Lloyd. Historic buildings of the French Quarter. Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub. Co., 2002.