The Gallier House Opens as a House Museum

A museum since 1971, Gallier House captures the Civil War–era lifestyle of one innovative nineteenth-century architect and his young family.

Prominent New Orleans architect James Gallier Jr. built his family residence, now known as Gallier House, on Royal Street in the Vieux Carré in 1857-60.¹ The masonry building is characterized by Gallier’s hybrid design of Creole and American townhouse features, the façade’s faux granite finish and ornate cast-iron verandah, and the use of modern technologies, such as indoor plumbing and innovative ventilation techniques.² After Gallier’s death in 1868, the house remained in the family until the early twentieth century.³ In the mid-1960s, owners Mr. and Mrs. Richard Freeman Jr. hired local preservation architecture firm Koch and Wilson Architects to restore the house and, after forming the non-profit Ella West Freeman Foundation, they hired the firm again in 1970 to restore the house as a museum.⁴ Shortly before Gallier House opened to the public in July 1971, Freeman stated that it was the foundation’s “sincere hope that this work will encourage similar improvements of historically significant New Orleans buildings and further development of our tourist industry.”⁵

In 1975, Gallier House was designated a National Historic Landmark.⁶ The Ella West Freeman Foundation donated the property to Tulane University in 1986 and, after a decade of stewardship, the university donated it to the non-profit Woman’s Exchange.⁷ Today, the Woman’s Exchange continues to manage the house, along with the Hermann-Grima House on St. Louis Street, as part of its mission to preserve and educate.⁸ A virtual tour of the house is available on the museum’s website.

 

1. Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, “Gallier House.”

2.Malcolm Heard, French Quarter Manual: An Architectural Guide to New Orleans’ Vieux Carré (New Orleans: Tulane School of Architecture, 1997), 46-47; and Mary Champagne, “Gallier House Opening Is Set in New Orleans,” State-Times Advocate, June 27, 1971.

3. Champagne, “Gallier House Opening Is Set in New Orleans”; and the Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey, “1132 Royal Street.”

4. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Gallier House,” National Register of Historic Places, May 30, 1974.

5.  “Restored Gallier House Will Open to Public July 1,” The Times-Picayune, June 21, 1971.

6. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Gallier House.”

7. The Associated Press, “Gallier House is donated to Tulane University,” June 3, 1986, State-Times; and Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, “About Us.”

8. Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, “About Us.”

 

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