What is it? Maybe you passed by it a million times and never gave it a second thought. I did. You were always on the way to some place else. I was. But, those of us who lived in the neighborhood eventually heard its story. It is passed down through the old folks, from their parents and their grand parents.
It’s a secret. Now. Then. Maybe forever.
I spent a little time in my old neighborhood after last weekend’s big Downtown Mardi Gras Indian parade. I hung out with friends. We told pre-Hurricane stories. Stories were about a lot of violence. We talked about one night in July, the month before the storm came, when eight people were murdered within minutes of each other. The police would come to one corner to investigate, only to hear gun shots a street or two away. Off they’d speed. To investigate. I could tell you more. But, you get the point. My old hood.
Today. It’s quiet. The bad guys are long gone. The storm washed them to Houston or Atlanta. When they came back they found the place had changed. Nobody would put up with their violence anymore. No more drug dealing on corners. No more squatting. They were forced to move on. The neighborhood is pretty. It’s old. A little bit broken. A lot recovered. While I was visiting, it felt like home. I live Uptown now.That doesn’t feel like home. Oh well. Hindsight. Twenty-twenty.
That said, I decided to walk around and take a few pictures. I should have photographed this place a decade ago. I should have done a lot of things a decade ago. At least I got this one back.
What is this place?
Let’s back into the story.
My house was the second “common” house built on what was a huge plantation. The first house was built across the street. My house was an original Creole four room house. The kitchen was in the backyard. So was the toilet. It was built in 1837. By the time I bought it had been renovated a couple of times. It looked like a Queen Anne Victorian. It had a side hall. It was enlarged. It had pocket doors. It was no longer primitive. That was done in 1888. With parts shipped down from Sears in Chicago, by train. By a guy called Lutz.
By the time I bought it, the neighborhood was in decline. It was rough, I knew my neighbors. I hung with them. I walked my dog. But, for safety’s sake, that was about it. Last weekend I walked around, taking pictures as I went. Very different.
I came to this place. Think about what I wrote. Plantation. Big. It was an Indigo farm. It only started being divided and sold in 1837. It had been there since the middle 1700s. What does that mean? Who did the actual hard work? Hopefully, you get it. Slaves did the hard work. They had to live some place. They lived here. This building is a slave house. Once, later, it may have been a share cropper house and eventually somebody may have lived it in it and turned it into their own. After all, you don’t see many modern screen doors on slave buildings.
But, there it is. A forgotten slave dwelling in the middle of the city. Real living history.