The secrets of CellarDoor: From brothel to bar

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - CellarDoor is celebrating its one year anniversary! It's a speak-easy kind of place in the Central Business District, in one of the city's oldest buildings. News with a Twist Reporter, Kenny Lopez found out this spot doesn't fall short on soul or secrets!

When you find this historic building at 916 Lafayette St. you feel as if you've just discovered one of New Orleans' best kept secrets! CellarDoor bar and restaurant now resides in this 3-story building known in the history books as the Swoop-Duggins house. It was built around 1830. Originally an English family lived in the home.

The Swoop-Duggins home is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's possibly the single oldest "house" remaining in downtown New Orleans. Before becoming CellarDoor, the place operated as an arts-themed restaurant known as Christopher Blake's, owned by Christopher Blake (Gertrude Stein's last protege). The building also operated as notably one of the longest running brothels in New Orleans. It has also been home to the Sporting House and Velvet Room over the years.

Walking inside CellarDoor, there's a feeling that you wish these walls could talk. Even the mirrors appear as if they've seen a few things.

"We're celebrating our 1-year anniversary. All this week, and I thought that would be a good time to reflect on some of the history of the building," Gregory Gremillion, Owner of CellarDoor, said.

"One of the most historical parts was there was a restaurant here named Christopher Blake's. He used to have debaucherous bath parties where they would fill the bath tubs with Bloody Mary's," Gremillion said.

Gremillion loves to tell tales of his spot.

"Somewhere around the same time as Storyville in the late 1800's, early 1900's, the place operated as a brothel. It operated as one of the city's longest running brothels until about 1950," he said.

With a building this old, it makes you wonder if there are any ghosts?

"This place has had a lot of lives. There are a lot of great spirits here, no pun intended," he said.

Every room reveals a secret!

"We have 13 fireplaces, and one of them is my favorite fireplace because the bricks bend. It's something I've never seen before," Gremillion said.

Door frames, mirrors, the bar, this place is filled with a unique and rich history.  Even one of the rooms used to be an old horse stable. Unlocking all of CellarDoor's secrets is fascinating. Gremillion said he can't wait to see what's to come!

"One of the best things for me about this place is that people spend a lot of money to try and replicate what this place truly is," he said.

Tonight at 9 p.m, CellarDoor will celebrate its birthday with drinks and food!

CellarDoor will start serving lunch on July 27th.   For menu items, click HERE:

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