|Henry Raphael Denis Home
600 Esplanade Avenue
|600 Esplanade Avenue, ca. 1939
The home pictured above, at the corner of Esplanade and Chartres, was built for
Henry Raphael Denis in 1834. It was once the home of Alonzo Morphy, father of
famed chess master, Paul Morphy. It was, also, the residence of Japanese chemist,
Jokichi Takamine, who was a leading pioneer in American biotechnology.
In 1884, while still living in Japan, Dr. Takamine was appointed co-commissioner of
the Cotton Exposition held in New Orleans. It was an appointment that would change
the course of his career, as well as, his personal life.
When he arrived in New Orleans, he moved into an apartment in the home of retired
Union officer, Col. Ebenezer Hitch, on Esplanade Avenue. It's worth noting that,
during his time in New Orleans, Dr. Takamine befriended a neighbor, a young
journalist by the name of Lafcadio Hearn, who later emigrated to Japan and became a
Before his year's stay came to an end, Dr. Takamine and Col. Hitch's daughter,
Caroline, had fallen in love. He went back to Japan, but came back in a few years and
he and Caroline were married in New Orleans in 1888.
Dr. Takamine and his wife lived in Japan for two years, but returned to the United
States to live out their lives, stopping briefly in Chicago, and then settling in New
York. In 1901, Dr. Takamine isolated and purified the hormone adrenaline. This was
the first isolation of a hormone from a natural source. Dr. Takamine was, also, the
first person to secure a U.S. patent on a microbial enzyme, making him the first
person to hold a U.S. patent in biotechnology.
He went on to build and manage one of the first biotechnology labs in America and,
also, to forge a great fortune and achieve considerable fame. Many of the beautifully
blossoming cherry trees in Washington, DC were donated by Dr. Takamine in 1912.
In addition to the important contributions he made to biotechnology, Dr. Takamine did
a great deal to foster cultural understanding between Japan and the United States.