The Beauregard-Keyes House History in New Orleans

Located directly across from the Ursuline Convent, the Beauregard-Keyes House was constructed in 1826 on land originally owned by the Ursuline nuns who sold off parcels of the land surrounding the convent in 1825. It was once inhabited by Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, and was later renovated by American author Francis Parkinson Keyes, “pronounced like eyes with a k-,“ the docent at the museum said.

Photo © Alex BarandaSojourn of a Penguin

The Beauregard-Keyes House blends Creole and American elements and even features a Greek Revival Palladian portico over the front porch. Built in classic Creole style, it’s a raised-level structure with the living quarters all on one floor above ground and a basement below. The backside of the house is also built in Creole cottage style with detached buildings that have wide porches called galleries that are used to go from room to room. The interior still maintained some traditional American elements such as the great hall down the middle. Architect Francois Correjolles combined the raised living floor of the Creole cottage style with the American Federalist-style façade in an “unusual fusion” that was new to the city.

1826 – 1833: LeCarpentier and Correjolles Years

Locking system with large iron bar for front door.

The house was constructed for Joseph LeCarpentier, a wealthy auctioneer who moved in with his wife and four daughters. As it was known that they were a musically inclined family, it is likely that they would have had a piano in the parlor. The eldest, Louise, was a mezzo-soprano whose sisters likely also entertained guests in the parlor as well. Currently, there is an 1850 Square Piano built in Boston that was owned by Francis Parkinson Keyes. Louise would marry attorney Michel Alonzo Morphy in 1829 who would later become a Louisiana Supreme Court judge. Together in 1837, they would have son named Paul who would go on to become the world chess champion of his era.

The keys of an 1850s Square Piano built in Boston. They let me play it!
Square Piano built in Boston, 1850. They let me play it!

1833 – 1840: The Merle and Philippon Years
1840 – 1865: The Trudeau and Garidel Years

The next purchaser of the house was John Ami Merle in 1833, who would later become the Swiss Consul to New Orleans. During his residency there, his wife Anais Philippon would design the first parterre garden. Eventually the house and garden were purchased from the Merles’ creditors in 1840 by widow Josephine Laveau Trudeau. Her daughter Adonai Andry married L. Armand Garidel and they moved into the house next door and remained there until matriarch Josephine died. They moved in and maintained the property and garden until the end of the Civil War.

Fountain in the middle of the garden
Fountain in center of the garden

1860 – 1867: The General Beauregard Years

Confederate Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and his second wife honeymooned there together briefly sometime after their marriage in 1860. She died in 1864 while he was away fighting in the Civil War. He returned home and rented the house there for two years before moving with his son René and widowed sister to 229 Royal Street. Though he never owned it, locals had already dubbed it “the Old Beauregard House.” Although he fought in the Confederate army, he later received a pardon by Pres. Andrew Johnson in 1868 and was active in the Reform Party which was a group of New Orleans gentlemen who had interests in voting rights for former slaves and advocated for civil rights.

Artistic rendering displayed in the house museum. 1866.
Artistic rendering displayed in the house museum. 1866.

1865 – 1926: The Lanata and Giacona Years

In 1865, Dominique Lanata purchased the house from Madame Garidel as a rental and had Gen. Beauregard as a tenant for a time. Upon Lanata’s death, his heirs sold the house in 1904 to Corrado Giacona whose family operated a wholesale liquor business there, Giacona and Co. The house gained fame in 1908 after Pietro Giacona and his son invited four local mafia members over and murdered them on the back gallery. They were indicted but the charges were dropped in 1910 as the general consensus was that they had done the city a favor rather than commit a crime.

1926 – 1944: The General Owen Years
and the Beauregard Foundation

After falling into disrepair for a number of years, it was purchased in 1926 by New Orleans architect, General Allison Owen. A group of local women established Beauregard House Inc. to prevent the house from being turned into a macaroni factory and convinced Gen. Owen to preserve the house as a memorial for Gen. Beauregard. How fitting that Owen’s father, William Miler, was one of the founders of the Louisiana Historical Association. Unfortunately, they never raised enough money and their plans had to be delayed. In the time after, the house was used by Warrington House as a home for homeless men and was also used by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

1944 – 1970: The Francis Parkinson Keyes Years
to Present Day

During the 1940s, American author Francis Parkinson Keyes was in New Orleans researching for a novel about the history of Mardi Gras. When she couldn’t find a place in the city to headquarter, she said she stumbled upon the house by accident. She rented the main floor while AA continued using the basement, and she paid her way by doing minor renovations on the house as early as 1945. She had experience doing historic renovations at the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s mansion, and the Kenmore estate, home to George Washington’s sister. She left the main house for entertaining and chose to live and work in the slave quarters behind, which she did every winter for the next 25 years, during which she had 29 books published. Although the Beauregard House was only supposed to be her winter residence, she eventually made it her permanent residence. Who can resist the charming allure of the French Quarter?

In the garden next to the BK House.
The white building across the street is the Ursuline Convent.

A true woman of the world, Francis loved traveling and during her lifetime, visited six continents. She was fluent in four languages and was a regular contributor to “Good Housekeeping” magazine. She wrote over 50 novels, some of which were written in the house including one that featured Gen. Beauregard as a character and took place in the house, Madame Castel’s Lodger. Another of her works, The Chess Players, is about world chess champion Paul Morphy, grandson of the house’s original owners. Her books have been published in 12 languages across 17 countries. Francis said she “loved people more than places” and had a list of star-studded friends. Her elegant parties would have the likes of silent film stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood and even English royalty. She also maintained a close friendship with Gen. Beauregard’s granddaughter who gifted her many heirlooms to keep in the house. Francis established the Keyes Foundation in 1948 to forever preserve and maintain the Beauregard-Keyes House and encourage the preservation of other historical places. After Francis died in the house in 1970, the Keyes Foundation has continued operating the house as a museum to this day.

“It is the search for treasure no less than the treasure itself that makes life worthwhile.”

– Francis Parkinson Keyes

Main hall of the Beauregard-Keyes House

If you’re ever in the French Quarter, I encourage you to spend time touring a historic home. The Beauregard-Keyes House is a beautiful glance back into time.

Visit their website for more information about the history of the home or to learn about visiting. You can also take a virtual tour.

2 comments

  1. Love, love your blog about these historical structures in NOLA. I learned quite a bit here. Love the photos and the writing style. Kudos to you!

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