Find of the Week: The largest artifact of the Historic New Orleans Collection

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — One of the artifacts of the Historic New Orleans Collection stands tall above the others.

The biggest artifact is the building of the Royal St. location.

Sarah Duggan, the Classical Institute of the South Coordinator and Research Curator says, “the first residence here was the first army barracks in New Orleans.  We have records of letters that Bieneville sent to the king of France, begging him to approve the expenditure to build the barracks.  He said they were in standing water they are living in these crude huts with just bark for roofs.”

After the barracks went down, the next building that would go up would be the one the collection uses today at 533 Royal St.

Some of the early buildings in New Orleans used European style wood foundations that quickly rotted.
In 1725,  the first brickyard in the city opened giving rise to a change to brick and post style.   Brick and post is a hybrid of wooden beams with brick insulation.  The walls had the added benefit of being fire resistant because they were no longer completely wooden.

Duggan says, “It was one of the few that survived that fire in 1794.   Francois Merieult purchased this lot for 600 pesos during Spanish rule in 1792. There was the great fire on good Friday in 1788 and then another fire in 1794 and after that second fire they decided to make mandatory building codes to make this the required format.”

As time passed in the city, a new style of barge board walls would take shape.  In the 19th century after the Louisiana purchase, Americans were bringing goods to sell into port.  It was very popular for someone to build a flat board or barge to sell the goods and then sell the barge itself as scrap lumber.

Just like many of the buildings in New Orleans, the Royal St. location of the HNOC tells a story.

“These walls are fascinating to me because they really tell the story of how this building has evolved over its lifetime. That is what is really unique about the collection because we house the collection housed in an artifact itself,” said Duggan.



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