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Hiding In Plain Sight

Among New Orleans’s more elegant and enigmatic homes is the Luling Mansion on Esplanade Ridge. Completed in 1865, the last year of the Civil War, and deeply touched by tragedy, it emanates mystery in a city celebrated for ghosts, vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Stashed on Leda Court, a half block off busy Esplanade Avenue, the house is easily missed unless you’re looking for it. This was hardly the case in its mid-nineteenth century heyday when it was showcased on eighty acres alongside Bayou St. John. Designed by legendary New Orleans architect James Gallier, Jr. for Florence Luling, a wealthy German cotton merchant, the plastered brick structure was three-and-a half stories of Italianate opulence taking two years to build. It topped a...

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Lost & Found

At first glance, the 1854 house flying the French flag at 2306 Esplanade Avenue is unremarkable in a town teeming with antebellum homes trimmed with cast-iron galleries, but its story is far richer than most. Events within these walls rocked the international art world after a visit from Edgar Degas, the only nineteenth-century French Impressionist to ever work in America. “He drowsed in the vibrant sunlight until the carriage halted before the Musson home. Through bleary eyes, he admired a handsome, three-storied house with generous galleries and dependencies and, here and there, cousin Désirée’s promised sweet olive trees.” –Creole Son Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris to a French father, Auguste Degas, and a New Orleans-born mother, Célestine Musson. In...

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Moonlight, Magnolias & Murder

One of Natchez’s smaller architectural gems, Glenburnie Manor was built in 1833. A handsomely proportioned, one-story raised cottage with a gracious, columned veranda, it was enhanced in the classic colonial style in 1904, just in time to welcome its most celebrated—and infamous—owner: Jane “Jennie” Merrill (1864-1932). As the daughter of cotton baron Ayres Merrill, Jennie boasted blood that was among the bluest in Mississippi. She was a newborn when her Unionist father took the family to New York to wait out the Civil War. Jennie was raised in luxury on Washington Square, and when her father was named Ambassador to Belgium by his friend President Ulysses S. Grant, Jennie was presented to Queen Victoria at the Court of St. James. It was said that the tiny monarch...

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