Movin’ On Up

I suppose I don’t have to explain why in the fall of 2020, I decided to prioritize getting a healthier and more comfortable place to live and work. After 40 years on and off in the city (all in the Quarter or MidCity) I’ve lived many varied versions of the New Orleans renter. Since Katrina though, I’ve barely made a home, instead living as minimally as possible, and sometimes for years roaming about as a house sitter. Don’t get me wrong- I make great spaces with lots of funky touches but they are not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to size or amenities.

I enjoyed it all really because I wanted to spend most of my time and money on creative people and pursuits. Still do. But with the lockdown, a lack of concern from the property owner where I had been living, and the remote work likely sticking around for a bit, I took a deep breath and did something many New Orleanians say they would like to do someday:

I moved to the Upper Pontalba* on Jackson Square.

To answer your first question, no, the waiting list isn’t outrageous. At least not currently. At least not on the city-owned side.

To answer your second question, no the rent isn’t out of scale with post K city rent prices (yeah I know…) At least not currently. At least not on the city-owned side.

The process was not super quick or even clear at times, even though the property management staff did a fantastic job trying to explain the system and being enthusiastically supportive of the current tenants and in getting new people in. Lovely folks.

If you have read this blog for a while, then you know I am have been doing research on the timeline and people of Jackson Square since the Pontalba Buildings were built in 1850. That research is to tell the story of how the French Quarter was meant to be transformed by these buildings and even though it didn’t really work out as its owner expected, the original city square was saved and beautified. My business card even has an old postcard of the Square and the Lower Pontalba.

So it felt like a sign when I had the opportunity.

The light is stunning and the access to the famous ironwork even on the 4th floor is very inspiring.
Modern French Quarter kitchens renovations are usually an afterthought and make them barely functional. This is not like that.

This move has offered a new vantage point for me, and also some inspiration too for my research and writing. I am sure that inspiration is true for some of my neighbors too.

Interestingly, the Lower side seems to have a very different tenant relationship and attitude about that building from its caretakers. I’ve actually known more people who lived on that side and so have spent a fair time in those apartments. All agree that the state side is not as updated, and the rents are higher. Lots of long term tenants headed out in the last few years when the rents skyrocketed, and those who remain tell me stories of their interaction with the state that are either combative or cold.

Over here as of now, this has been a very good choice for me and there are a few apartments available which is not that common. So maybe this is a opportunity for you.

http://upperpontalba.org/apartments/leasing/

*Upper is the St. Peter side, Lower is the Saint Ann side of the Square. Upper was donated to the city by local civic leaders (Alfred Danzinger, Jules D. Dreyfous, and William Runkel) via the Pontalba Building Museum Association in 1930 which then donated it to the City of New Orleans. As part of a Federal Works Progress Administration-funded project, the row houses are reconfigured into 50 apartments and the ground floor commercial spaces are converted into residential spaces. (Commercial spaces return in the 1970s to the Uppper Pontalba.) In the 1990s Morial Adminstration did the last major renovation on the Upper Pontalba to the tune of 8 million bucks.

The Lower was donated to the state around the same time before the Upper by William Radcliffe Irby* Once in a while, I do silently thank him. And I also thank our Micaela too.

*from 64 Parishes: On Saturday morning, November 20, 1926, Irby went about his day in his normal manner. He visited the bank, performed a few routine duties, and had a mid-morning cup of coffee. He next took a cab to the Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp undertaking parlors at Carondelet and Toledano Streets. The Times-Picayune reported that Irby “greeted the attendants affably” and told them he had “come to make arrangements for a funeral.” He looked at coffins on the second floor and then requested a morning newspaper. When the undertaker went downstairs to fetch the paper, Irby, sitting on a sofa, fired a revolver into his right temple. He left a note “requesting simplicity in his funeral.” A second note cited an “incurable heart disease” as the reason for his suicide. He was buried in New Orleans’s Metairie Cemetery.

64 Parishes: The Pontalbas

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(Henry) Howard claimed authorship of the Pontalba Buildings in his 1872 autobiography, but historian Christina Vella, author of Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba, concludes, “That claim is not borne out by any document concerning the construction of the Pontalbas.” We are left with several mysteries. Who was the architect in New York? What, exactly, did Henry Howard contribute to the design? And what was the baroness’s role in her landmark buildings’ design?

The Baroness de Pontalba and the Rise of Jackson Square is on view at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo through October 13, 2019.

https://64parishes.org/a-spanish-father-and-a-creole-daughters-monumental-legacies-in-new-orleans?platform=hootsuite

Pontalba exhibit opens

As someone researching the mercantile history of Jackson Square from the time of the Pontalba buildings built this is an exciting opportunity, but this exhibit and the interactive mapping of our 300-year history of New Orleans (I understand it features the excellent work of our local geographer/historian Rich Campanella) should draw everyone to this museum.

I’ll update after going to the exhibits later this week…

https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_1e8789b4-f4ce-11e8-a444-4b879655b709.html

 

 

Celebrate the birthday of the Baroness Pontalba

How funny- Maybe I should ask the Baroness a few questions since I am researching the commercial history of Jackson Square and of the Pontalbas. (And I wonder if the Grand Duchess will come back in town for this?)

 

At the Upper Pontalba Building, Jackson Square
THURSDAY, November 3th 5-7 p.m. 500 block of St. Peter Street
Meet the Baroness—Shop—Eat Cake—Enjoy Opera

A Celebration of the Life of Micaela Leonarda Antonia Almonester y Rojas, Baroness de Pontalba (Born: November 6, 1795, New Orleans, LA; Died: April 20, 1874, Paris, France). The Baroness Pontalba is the namesake of and responsible for the design, development, and construction of the Pontalba buildings on Jackson Square, the oldest continually rented apartment buildings in the United States. The Upper Pontalba Building is managed by the French Market Corporation and is part of the French Market District.

***Spend $25 in one of the participating Shops at the Upper Pontalba on Saint Peter Street and get a raffle ticket to win items from the Shops at the Upper Pontalba! You must be present to win. Raffles will be at 5:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. **

Event Schedule:

Enjoy extended shop hours, retail specials, live opera, historical characters in costume, and a chance to meet Dr. Christina Vella, the author of the definitive biography of the Baroness Pontalba, “INTIMATE ENEMIES”
Signed Paperback copies of the book will be for sale at Muse at 532 St. Peter Street throughout the evening
5:00-7:00 p.m. Louisiana History Alive presents The Baroness Pontalba in person!
5:30 p.m. Raffle #1. Spend $25 in one of the participating Shops at the Upper Pontalba on Saint Peter Street and get a raffle ticket to win items from the Shops at the Upper Pontalba! You must be present to win.
6:15 p.m. Raffle #2!
5:45-6:30 p.m. New Orleans Opera Association performs from a balcony above the Shops at the Upper Pontalba
6:00-7:00 p.m. Book signing by Christina Vella, author of Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba
6:30 p.m. Happy Birthday, Baroness! Join us in singing Happy Birthday and sharing cake
6:45 p.m. Raffle #3! Spend $25 in one of the participating Shops at the Upper Pontalba on Saint Peter Street and get a raffle ticket to win items from the Shops at the Upper Pontalba! You must be present to win.