The Hermann-Grima House Opens as a House Museum

A museum since 1971, the Hermann-Grima House is an important antebellum example of American architectural influence in the Vieux Carré.

Constructed in 1831 by German Jewish merchant Samuel Hermann, the Hermann-Grima House is a particularly fine example of the American influence on Vieux Carré architecture before the Civil War.¹ The gracious, two-story main house features a center hall, double-hung sash windows, delicately detailed Federal-style door surrounds, and a symmetrical façade painted to mimic red Northern brick, while the Creole influence can be seen in the simple front balcony and rear gallery with cabinets. The grounds also include a two-story stable and a three-story detached service wing with an intact open-hearth kitchen.

The Grima family took over the property from the 1840s until 1921, and in 1924 the Christian Woman’s Exchange, a local organization committed to assisting women in need, bought it and carefully converted the buildings into a rooming house with a consignment shop and tea room at street level.² In addition to the organization’s many decades of respectful stewardship, in the 1960s the group expanded its mission to include historic preservation and successfully nominated the property to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.³ The same year, the Hermann-Grima House was opened to the public as a house museum, and in 1974 it became a National Historic Landmark.⁴ Thanks to donations by the descendants of both the Hermann and Grima families and the existence of three historic estate inventories, today the house is meticulously interpreted to represent daily life for a wealthy nineteenth-century family. Docents also discuss the contributions and sacrifices of the craftsmen and enslaved people who made such a life possible.⁵ Special educational events include open-hearth cooking demonstrations and, in October, the observance of Creole mourning customs.⁶

 

1. Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, “Hermann-Grima House,” hgghh.org; and Malcolm Heard, French Quarter Manual: An Architectural Guide to New Orleans’ Vieux Carré (New Orleans: Tulane School of Architecture, 1997), 46-47

2. Charles L. “Pie” Dufour and Samuel Wilson Jr., Women Who Cared: The 100 Years of the Christian Woman’s Exchange (New Orleans: Christian Woman’s Exchange, 1980), 33-40; and Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, “Hermann-Grima House.”

3. Erin Gabrielle Walker, “Christian Woman’s Exchange,” in KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson (Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities, 2010-). Article published September 15, 2011; and “Quarter House Is Historic Site,” The Times-Picayune, November 11, 1971.

4. Dufour and Wilson, Women Who Cared, 55; Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, “Timeline,” hgghh.org; and Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Hermann-Grima House,” National Register of Historic Places, May 30, 1974.

5. Dufour and Wilson, 55-60; and Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, “Hermann-Grima House.”

6. Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses, “Exhibits,” hgghh.org.

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