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 floors.
   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.
[Photo courtesy of Gail des Jardin.]
The Pontalba depicted in Legos, Legoland, CA.
[Photo courtesy of
Steve Stevens.]
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