In February of 2006, the hum of generators and the sounds of hammering were commonplace in New Orleans. My childhood home in the Garden District was one of the lucky ones; Katrina and Rita had blown away only a few shingles which led to some roof repair and several mold abatement projects within the home. However, a discovery that one of the construction workers made seemed intriguing: a brittle piece of old newspaper dated from 1885 tucked behind lath board and plaster.
I wondered who else spent time and energy working on that house over the years, who owned it and who lived there. The questions kept coming. I was always fascinated with history and architecture, was even a licensed tour guide, but this was different. This was home.
I set out to discover the history of 1120 6th Street, the architecture, the materials, the people. I spent my free time at university libraries and City Hall, I conducted oral interviews with neighbors, and spent late nights scouring online archives and databases. I learned about Colonel James Butterfield who lived across the street and built the house for his daughters, Molly and Eleanor. I found old maps showing a new neighborhood made of dirt roads and lightly sprinkled with only a few structures. I began to see my childhood home in a new, historical perspective. I was hooked.
I learned about the previous owners and tenants along with the architecture and renovations the house had seen over the years. There was fire and death as well as love and growth. I realized that my family and I were adding to the legacy that preceded us. I came to understand that in the grand scheme of things we were merely stewards of the house, and ultimately we would become the steward of it’s legacy.
All of these stories and bits of information came together like a jigsaw puzzle in the form of a book titled 1120 6th Street. I wove the research together, published it, and presented it to my family as a gift. It was a celebration of the house, her guests, and her 125-year history.
When construction workers crumpled the piece of newspaper and sealed it into the wall in 1885, it was an afterthought; when it was discovered again 125 years later, it was both a relic and a spark. 1120 6th Street led to other research projects and books. What started as a love for history and New Orleans architecture has become a business venture. Currently, residential and commercial property owners commission Once Upon A Home to tell the stories and compile the history of their estates and businesses.
At Once Upon A Home we uncover the rich history of houses and commercial properties in New Orleans and tell their stories. The books, posters and other mediums are the vehicles to tell those stories. Learn more.