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New 700 Frenchmen Hotel & Bar Summer 2017 opening
700-06 Frenchmen Street
Facing Washington Square in the heart of Faubourg Marigny, the two masonry townhouses at 700-06 Frenchmen Street have a commanding presence. The 2 ½ story buildings and detached 3-story service buildings figured as a part of the vast real estate holdings of Julien Adolphe Lacroix (1808-1868), a Cuban-born free-man-of-color, and after his death in 1868 were acquired by his brother Francois Lacroix (1806-1876). The wealthy and influential Lacroix brothers belong to that uniquely New Orleans group of well-educated, cultured gens de couleur libres, many of whom had origins in Saint-Dominigue. Although Julien and Francois were born in Cuba, their parents likely had fled to the island from Saint-Dominique after its late 18th-century and early 19th-century slave uprisings. 700-06 Frenchmen Street are visual reminders of the success and respect achieved by the Lacroix Brothers, two of the wealthiest members of their genre.
A grocer by trade, Julien Lacroix in 1843 acquired the property at the corner of Frenchmen and Casacalvo (Royal) Streets from the estate of Genoese Jean Baptiste Azereto (Louis T. Caire, N.P., October 24, 1843). Never married, Azereto cohabited with Eugenie Gresse and fathered nine children, whom he legitimized legally in 1834. The family lived nearby at the corner of Frenchmen and Decatur Streets and not at the site of the subject properties. In fact, the existing buildings were not constructed until after Julien Lacroix acquired the property in 1843, although it was written in the Friends of Cabildo New Orleans Architecture: Creole Suburbs that the buildings were built in the 1830s before Lacroix bought the property. Azereto’s succession records state that the property at the corner of Frenchmen and Casacalvo was a “lot of ground” (Probate Files, Paul Avril-Angelique Aury, 1843-1844).
Julien Lacroix’s extensive estate was inventoried after his death in 1868 for the benefit of his widow Ursule Péan and their four children (Louisiana, Orleans Parish Estate Files; Louisiana. Probate Court and Onesiphore Drouet, N.P., March 31, 1869). Included in the listings were their domicile and place of business at 506 Frenchmen Street, where J.A. Lacroix fancy goods and wine emporium was located and the subject townhouses at the corner of Frenchmen and Royal Streets. The inventory valued this later property at $16,000 and described it as “two double two story brick houses and kitchens and other improvements” (see attachment). It was further noted that “the buildings thereon” were erected after the purchase of the land by Lacroix in 1843. Lacroix’s properties were sold at public auction on March 31, 1869. His widow and children retained the family home at 506 Frenchmen and continued the family store there until the 1890s, which evolved into a boot and shoes store. The subject properties were sold at auction in 1869 to Julien’s brother Francois. Newspaper advertisements preceding the sale show that two double buildings at 700-06 Frenchmen Street were located on separate lots A and B. Lot B, at the corner of Frenchmen and Royal, had a “two story and attic brick house, Nos. 50 and 52, containing twelve rooms, a three story brick kitchen of six rooms, paved yard, waterworks, privy, etc., the whole divided into two tenements” (see attachment). Lot B contained identical townhouses, Nos. 54 and 56. Lacroix paid his brother’s estate $1150 for the two double townhouses. A floor plan included in the estate records show a typical Creole-style floor plan, with stairs located in the rear loggia (see attachment). The combination of attic frieze windows with dormers, however, is an unusual configuration for Creole style buildings. Although Julien Lacroix constructed several buildings on his acquired properties over the years, there is no documentation for his employment of specific builders or architects, and may have supervised the work himself.
Francois Lacroix, a prosperous tailor and fabric merchant, started out in business in the French Quarter as a partner in the firm of Cordeviolle and Lacroix. He also was a major real estate speculator, participating in the fluid market of the 1840s; and that allowed him to become a philanthropist, with the benefit of his largesse going to orphan children through his endowment of the Société Pour L'education des Orphelins des Indigenes de la 3me District and La Société de la Sainte Famille. The fortunes of Lacroix, however, declined after the Civil War and he would not pay taxes. When he died in 1876 at his late brother’s home at 506 Frenchmen, he not only did not leave a will but was insolvent; and his extensive holdings were liquidated at public auction (see attachment, Christoval Morel, N.P. January 26, 1877). The buyer of the two double buildings was Charles Lacoume, the proprietor of the Crescent Billiard Hall and Bar Room under the St. Charles Hotel. When this native of Pau, France died in 1882, his funeral was held at this home at 56 Frenchmen, one of the buildings in the subject row. His family retained the buildings until 1903 when they were sold to Louisa Gazave, widow of Bernard Abadie, also French immigrants. The Abadie family retained the buildings until 1925. During the early 1900s, a millinery shop was located at 700 Frenchmen. For many decades the occupants of these Creole-style building not only were mostly French but maintained the continental tradition of mixed residential and commercial uses. In 1972 the property was acquired by the Children’s Home of New Orleans.