Madame John’s Legacy is one of the finest 18th century building complexes in Louisiana. It is one of the few French Quarter structures that escaped the great fire of 1794, which leveled much of city’s oldest section.
Early Louisiana Creole Architecture
Madame John’s is an excellent example of Louisiana Creole residential design at the end of the 18th century. It is more typical of the simple, unadorned style of the French West Indies than the ornate style that evolved during the Spanish colonial period, characterized by lacy wrought iron balconies. The architectural complex at Madame John’s actually consists of three buildings: The main house, the kitchen with cook’s quarters and the two-story garconniere (gentlemen’s guest quarters). The main house is the only building in the complex that is open to the public.
George Washington Cable
The name of this house was taken from a story (“Tite Poulette”) by the prominent author George Washington Cable. Cable was notable for his realistic portrayals of Creole life in his native New Orleans. He gained sympathy for the plight of quadroon and octoroon women, who sometimes became the mistresses of white men because interracial marriage was illegal at that time (1873).
The house was built in 1788, after a fire destroyed much of the neighborhood. The house was rebuilt in the older French colonial style, rather than the current Spanish style. Madam John’s Legacy is a slightly altered example of early French colonial architecture. It is considered to be typical of many of the Vieux Carré houses built in the early 18th century by middle-class families.
One of the Last of its Kind
Today few houses such as Madame John’s Legacy in the French Quarter exist; yet at one time many such dwellings filled the older parts of town. The style could be found in the French West Indies, the Illinois Country, and Canada.
This is the kind of home that prospering colonists built after progressing from their first rude cabin dwellings. The homes provided refuge and sanctuary for the New Orleanians: up off the ground it was safe from frequent flooding and the broad galleries protected it from sun and rain. Thick walls and shuttered windows created a snug and private atmosphere, but the inside was spacious.
A Film Site for Interview with the Vampire
You may remember the home from the movie Interview with the Vampire. This is the house from which the caskets are being carried as Brad Pitt’s voice-over describes Lestat and the little vampire Claudia going out on the town: “An infant prodigy with a lust for killing that matched his own. Together, they finished off whole families.”