|Inside America's Oldest Apartments
The Upper and Lower Pontalba Apartment buildings, on either side of
Jackson Square, were built by the Baroness Michaela Pontalba in about
1850. They are historically significant because they are the oldest
continually rented apartment buildings in the United States.
The Baroness was one of the wealthiest and most colorful women in New
Orleans history. She was the daughter of Don Andres de Almonester y
Rojas, a generous philanthropist, responsible for the construction of many
of the city's early public buildings, and was married to Xavier Celestin de
Pontalba. She spent many years in Paris with her husband's family.
She returned to New Orleans in the late 1840's (after having miraculously
survived an attempt by her father-in-law to murder her), and immediately
began planning apartment buildings to flank either side of what was then
known as the Place d' Armes. It was the Baroness' suggestion that the old
square be renamed in honor of Gen. Andrew Jackson. The apartments had
more than one architect, with the Baroness including many of her own
ideas for their design. The result is an interesting mixture of French,
Creole and Greek Revival. There are shops on the first floor, with doors
leading to passageways rather than stair halls and, at the end of the
passageways, curved stairways lead to the private apartments on the upper
Among those who have been residents or guests in the Pontalba
Apartments are singer Jenny Lind and writers, William Faulkner, Somerset
Maugham, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sherwood Anderson, Thornton Wilder
and Booth Tarkington.
The interior photos directly below were apparently taken when the
buildings were undergoing some renovation in the late 1930's.
|The "A-P" monogram on the balcony grillwork
represents the Baroness' maiden and married
names, Almonester and Pontalba.
[Photo courtesy of dolescum.]
|Michaela Leonarda Antonia Pontalba
|Above, Pontalba Apartments in the 1930's;
below, in about 1900.
|View of the apartments from a window of the Presbytere, 1930's.
|The Pontalba depicted in Legos, Legoland, CA.
[Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens.]