French Opera House

History of the French Opera House

Site of the First U.S. Opera House

This site held the French Opera House. It was built in 1859 and was the cultural center of New Orleans society and the first opera house in the United States. In addition to the grand productions, the opera house hosted Mardi Gras balls, debuts, concerts, benefits, and receptions. Built in the Greek Revival style, the opera house was designed by famous architect James Gallier. The grand auditorium was decorated in red and white and seated 1,800 people in four tiers. Operas have been performed in New Orleans since 1790 and hundreds of operas were performed in the old French Opera House. For sixty years, the Opera House was the hub of Creole society. It burned in 1919 and, in the Times-Picayune article published the next day, the writer echoed the words of a stunned city: “The heart of the old French Quarter has stopped beating.”

Interesting Remnant

Notice that Bourbon Street is wider here than at any other block along the street. The street was designed this way so that carriages could pull over to drop off or pick up their patrons.

View of the Gauche House from Esplanade

History of the Gauche House

Grand home on Esplanade and Royal

This “Italianate Villa” was built in 1865 by John Gauche, an importer and dealer in crockery and chinaware in the New Orleans French Quarter. The cast iron balconies with the little dancing cherubs are one of a kind. They were marade and imported from Saarbruchen, Germany. Other ironwork featuring floral motifs casts beautiful shadows on the granite when the sun is shining.

It’s interesting to note as we look down Royal Street, that in 1823 it was the first street in the Vieux Carre to be paved using stone blocks brought over as the ballast aboard European sailing ships.

This house is privately owned and is not open to the public.