Picture yourself in the glory of one of the first apartment structures in America. The Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba commissioned the construction of the stately mansions that now line both sides of Jackson Square in 1851.
The only residence in Pontalba that visitors can explore is the 1850 House Museum. The museum was designed to look like the home of a wealthy antebellum family and features fine examples of furnishings, porcelain, silver, and other ornamental arts.
There aren’t many locations where you can step back in time more than 150 years and live as our forebears did. The 1850 House is one of the few remaining structures from the city’s most prosperous era before the Civil War when it provides a look into the lives of the city’s top middle class.
The 1850 House does not symbolize the home of a specific family but rather the wealth, fashion, and lifestyle of New Orleans in the middle of the nineteenth century. A collection of John Slidell’s china, Old Paris porcelain, New Orleans silver, and scores of other noteworthy artworks and furnishings can be found throughout the home, all of which contribute to the overall effect of being transported back in time.
The 1850 House can be found in the Lower Pontalba structure. Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba commissioned the construction of the Upper and Lower Pontalba buildings, which stand on opposing ends of Jackson Square. Don Andrés Almonester y Roxas was a wealthy Spanish imperial farmer who provided funding for the construction of the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and The Presbytère, all of which were named after her.
The unique rowhouses were designed to be both elegant residences and retail establishments, drawing inspiration from the imposing Parisian architecture the Baroness favored. The Lower Pontalba Building was purchased from the Pontalba family in 1921 by Louisiana benefactor William Ratcliffe Irby, who then donated it to the Louisiana State Museum in 1927.
The history of 1850 House Museum
Built-in 1850 by Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, daughter of Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, a Spanish colonial landowner connected to the nearby Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and Presbytere, the Upper and Lower Pontalba Buildings surround St. Ann and St. Peter Streets, respectively, on two sides of Jackson Square. They are possibly the earliest residential buildings in the entire country.
The unique rowhouses were designed to be both luxurious homes and high-end shops, drawing inspiration from the Baroness’s favorite style of intimidating Parisian architecture. The Lower Pontalba Building was purchased from the Pontalba family in 1921 by benefactor William Ratcliff Irby, who donated it to the State Museum in 1927.
The State Museum had re-created the interior of one of the homes to show what it would have looked like when Baroness Pontalba first opened her doors in the Antebellum period, highlighting the historical importance of the monument.
The 1850 House is a faithful recreation of middle-class family life in New Orleans’ most affluent era, complete with historical furnishings, ornamental arts, and artwork. There are a few guided walks conducted by docents and curators, and visitors can also explore on their own. The Friends of the Cabildo run a souvenir store in the 1850 House that is part of the museum.
1850 House Museum Store
Gifts for the Louisiana State Museum sites in New Orleans can be purchased from the 1850 House Museum Store, which is run by the Friends of the Cabildo.
Located in the historic Lower Pontalba Building at 523 St. Ann Street, the 1850 House Museum Store overlooks the picturesque Jackson Square. In addition to membership dues and donations, proceeds from the Friends of the Cabildo’s daily French Quarter Walking Tours and the 1850 House Museum Store’s wares help support the Louisiana State Museum.
Items from the museum’s exhibits, as well as literature on everything from history to cuisine to voodoo, can be found in this shop, along with a wide variety of other handcrafted goods by local artisans.