Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Treme Treasure

The Treme is more than an a HBO TV show about New Orleans.

The uncovered old plaster walls are left as is

The Treme is the oldest neighborhood in the USA settled by Free People of Color, and remains today an important center of African American and Creole Culture.

It's location right next to French Quarter is attractive to anyone wanting to buy a house of excellent historic pedigree and architecture. As in many cases with houses nearing the 200 year old mark, there is some serious work to be done.

The hallway may be the last remaining foyer
still retaining
its original ashlar block treatment
a faux painting technique to make masonry look like stone

Will Germaine bought his Treme treasure in 2003, and found it to be a grand pile ready to fall in on itself.

He has been doing an unusual renovation. He has been trying to stabilize the house in its antiquity, bringing it back as close as possible to historical accuracy.

The old plaster walls create a livable environment without HVAC

The original owner of the house was Louise Vitry, a free woman of color, who lived a placage, in this house with one of the French Creole men who built the Treme, Achille Courcelle, and their four children. After his death, she kept the house.

The living room is charming
Slipcovers and seagrass and old plaster - Yum!

In old New Orleans, Placage was an extra legal system of "placing" a free woman of color with a white male protector in a type of common law marriage. He gave her the title to the house, and other creature comforts and luxuries, and he would be expected to provide an education (often in Paris), and an inheritance for her children.

The exterior of the house

I would love to live in house like this. I have lived in places with ruined walls and stabilized them in their glorious decrepitude. Even now I drag in chippy crappy things and use them in the house.

What about you? Could you live in a house historically restored like this?
To be fair. There is a second floor where the owner lives with comfortable amenities (like new plumbing) that are contained in an addition on the back of the house built in 1900.

The idea is to be historically accurate, not pristine. Will wants to maintain the signs of age for aesthetic reasons (kind like me in my old age ha ha). Rather than tearing down and re-doing the plaster work in the soaring rooms downstairs, he will keep much as he can secure, including the damage and the exposed lath where the plaster has fallen.

I love what Will Germaine is doing, and if I have one more house left in me to buy in New Orleans, I'd love an old crumbling center hall house in all it's decadence.


  1. What a gorgeous house, so beautiful I love the pealing walls and I loved hearing what Placage was. You had me intrigued. many thanks Carla

  2. In a heartbeat! Rescuing and living in a beautiful old, full of original character and history home would be a dream come true.
    God Bless Will Germaine!

    In what time period did this particular "placage" happen?
    xo J~

  3. Placage took place from around 1790 to 1865.
    xo xo

  4. I love it. When I removed the wall paper from my living room...I wanted to leave the walls as they were...but unfortunately could not because there was some ugly old patch jobs done on the plaster....so I decided to paint. But I love this look.

  5. I was recently in this amazing house, so how fun to see it featured on your blog. Standing in those great rooms one can't help but be overwhelmed by a sense of reverence for the woman who owned it.
    You can see it as well on December 5th. My best friend is having a solo show of her black and white photography and it will hang in this home during Photo NOLA.
    Her website is www.lorivrba.com

  6. I love hearing about fabulous old houses being brought back from the brink of death like this. And it's very interesting to learn about "placage"--how had I never heard of that before?

  7. thanks for all the history.
    i'd love to see a book written about these women and the houses they lived in...

    such grand rooms. gorgeous.

  8. I love historical...but I also love amenities. When we lived in San Fran, we lived in a 1905 brownstone that had all of the original architectural charm...but an updated master bath and is still our all time favorite. I guess I need both!!
    xoxo E

  9. fascinating history val, that i never knew about.
    in a heartbeat i would live in one of those.......but no a/c? in nola?

  10. Definitely - in a second! Living in an old house (and especially in New Orleasns!) has always always been a dream of mine. I love old "stuff"... such a history behind them - this house included! As long as they don't actually crumble on my head, I'd leave them because they are beautiful as they are.

    But I'd have to experience those old plaster walls during August to really see if they create a liveable environment! Ha! I guess I'll have to take your word for it. :-)

  11. I looked at, then bought 58 acres with 2 falling down pre Civil War log cabins; no utilities. For several months I lived in one of the cabins on weekends. Then the former inhabitants got to me - big spiders, squirrels, snakes, something brown that lived under the house and rats. I still plan on rebuilding the cabins but no longer fight the desire for comfort and safety.

    No, I would not live there in that New Orleans house. Comes a time when being clean trumps history. Ann

  12. Hi Valorie. Really love that old, fading, uneven plaster look. Photos drip with history. Beautiful, thanks. Trish

  13. That is absolutely fascinating! I have just stumbled accross your blog, and I have to say that I am now SO intrigued by the history of this house and the quarter in general, that I am compelled to do a bit of research to find out more. Thank you for such an informative and visually spectacular post. I LOVE old houses - my own dates back to 1822. Delighted to have found you - happy thoughts from the UK! xx

  14. That is a real New orleans looking house, what fun to bring it back. the bench came out cute..


  15. Wow - don't you think you should have at least footnoted the PRC article you basically stole for this post?