Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lost New Orleans

In May 1894, New Orleans businessman Jules A. Gauche hired surveyor D.E. Seghers to review his lots located in West Bouligny Square 70 (Sixth District Square 437). Gauche and his brothers owned a prominent structure -- the Moresque or Gauche building --  located in the First District square bounded by Camp, Poydras, Church and North Streets. It was on the first floor of this building that they operated a china, crockery and glassware store.
Their wares came from a variety of sources, regional and international. In February 1894, John Gauche's Sons received a letter from a Selma, Alabama supplier named E. Gillman, Jr., whose envelope (above) featured a wood engraving with a wash basin and pitcher.
The Gauche building was designed by New Orleans architects James and William Freret, and was noted for its decorative and prophylactic use of iron. Despite its presumed fire-proof construction, it was destroyed by a dramatic blaze in April 1897. The chief firefighter on the scene claimed it was the hottest fire "with one exception" he had ever seen, ostensibly an enormous furnace filled with combustible matter.(1)  Firefighters' hoses melted in the heat. The wood furniture and willowware that third-floor occupant B.J. Montgomery & Company specialized in provided the fuel.
The Daily Picayune reported that "the immense columns of iron doubled up as if they were made of paper and fell with crashes resembling cannon shots."(2)

(1) & (2) "Flames at the City's Heart." The Daily Picayune 16 April 1897, p. 1.

Images above: First: Jules A. Gauche, letter to D.E. Seghers, 14 May 1894, Guy Seghers Office Records, "District 6 Square 437"; Second: E. Gillman, Jr., envelope addressed to Mess. Jno. Gauche's Sons, 1 February 1894, Guy Seghers Office Records, "District 6 Square 437"; Third: Moresque Building, wood engraving, Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, "Camp Street"; Fourth: Moresque Building Column, photograph, Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, "Camp Street."  All Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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