Many would argue that the loveliest street in the beautiful city of New Orleans is Audubon Place. It’s a wide boulevard, gated and private, lined with majestic old oaks. Set behind a decorative iron arch and two turreted stone gatehouses, there are just 28 houses here, including the home of the president of Tulane University as well as the former home of late sports franchise owning billionaire Tom Benson, who owned the Saints and Pelicans.
Properties on this coveted street rarely come up for sale, and this grande dame, listed for $5.5 million by Eleanor Farnsworth at Latter & Blum, boasts a long history that begins with the founding of the exclusive enclave. In 1893, a group of investors from Chicago and St. Louis had an idea to create a “residential park,” similar to the garden city movement popular at the time, in New Orleans. They purchased a large tract of land across from Audubon Park for $160,000, about $4.9 million today. The investors wanted to create a private neighborhood for millionaires, with the finest homes in the city. The Daily Picayune noted, “The idea is to beautify and embellish the place until it is one of the loveliest spots in the country, and then sub-divide the land into lots for suburban residences of the finer type.”f
In 1910, Herman Weil, the owner of a hat and trunk business on Canal Street, bought this 0.45 acre lot for $12,000. Then he hired architect Emile Weil (no relation) to design for him a Renaissance Revival house. Emile Weil is well-known in New Orleans as the architect of many local buildings—movie theaters, department stores, churches and synagogues, as well as the stadium for the New Orleans Pelicans baseball team that was torn down in 1957.
For Weil, Emile designed a 9,365-square-foot, 15-room house with a classical entry porch and a dentil molded cornice. The house cost more than $20,000 to build and included seven bedrooms and four baths. (Today the house has five baths, plus a powder room.) Particularly noteworthy are the graceful flying staircase as well as the oak and walnut parquet floors, original chandeliers, marble fireplaces, thick crown moldings, and numerous built-ins. There’s even a pool out back.
The Weil family owned the house until 1971. It was then purchased by architect F. Louis Dreyfous, whose firm designed the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. A later owner let the house fall into some disrepair, and the property last sold for $4.5 million at a bankruptcy auction in 2019. Now, it has been partially renovated with a new roof, though it could really use a new kitchen and bathrooms. Fortunately, the house retains much of its original charm and elegance as it awaits its next chapter.