Over the last few weeks, there has been a back and forth about the Lower Pontalba rent prices. As many of you know, the Pontalba apartments are among the oldest in the country, having been built as apartments by Baroness Pontalba in the 1850s. As I have written before, you can see the inside of one by going to the 1850 museum in the middle of the lower block. It’s a self-guided tour with an apartment set up as it would have been in the 1850s (maybe they lived without the groaning a/c) and has some plaques explaining some of the family history of those who lived there then. The city manages the uptown side of things and this management falls under the French Market Corporation which has been having its own upheaval recently.
Rental prices are being debated for these treasures, since the councilwoman has found out that they are rented well below the market rate for apts like that AND should be primary dwellings, which anyone who spends any time on the Square can tell you few are. Lights are generally on at most of them only a few days a year, and I assume you know which days I am referring. CM Palmer has also found out that they of course are rented to very prominent people at these lucky rates. However, in all likelihood, a few rents will increase but things will go on the same for most people there. The truth is that at market rate, few people who live in New Orleans full-time can afford it.
Although I would love to have stopped and sat on a particular sunny balcony to chat with the Grand Duchess to hear her views personally, I knew she was leaving for a hurried trip to the Middle East this very week. I instead left a message on her machine that I looked forward to talking with her on this subject when she returned. A suspicion that she enjoys my offer to publish her views was confirmed with the speed of her reply: within a day a call came from her live-in, Maude. Miss Maude told me the GD had sat down and written something as she was leaving and handed it to her, asking her to call me to read it. Miss Maude apologized before starting as her sight is not what it was and “with the intricate handwriting…”
but I suspect she just about got it word for word .
“So Miss Dar, here is what she says”:
Residing at the Pontalba is a privilege. 1/4 of these to be set aside for long-term employees of the stores below and/or those who work at Cafe DuMonde and should cost 1/4 of their monthly rate of pay.
She also says:
Those who get this privilege should have the good sense to have loads of parties and invite artists and dancers and musicians and serve excellent food and strong liquor and let the friendly noise drift over the Square… And to festoon their balconies with lovely crepe paper and greenery, changed every season of course. Also, as it should be remembered that crime is an issue in our village, one dweller should act as the block captain for 6 months at a time. This captain should walk through the Square weekly, noting any broken or missing valuables. They should chat with the eyes of the square (artists, musicians and sun seekers) discussing their concerns as well.
P.S. And all should remember to take a strong cup of coffee outside every morning and drink it gratefully with a silent nod to our dear Baroness. Our own Micaela who always chose gaiety over decorum and would do it again if she could….