|Historic Harris-Maginnis House
The Old Maginnis Cotton Mill
|Built in 1857, the home on Prytania Street known as the Harris-Maginnis House, has a
long and interesting history. From a wealthy cotton broker, to a cotton mill owner who was
one of the most influential men in the state, to the New Orleans Chapter of the Red Cross
during WWII, to a private residence, to an elegant boutique hotel known as Magnolia
Mansion...if the walls of this home could speak, they'd have an intriguing story to tell.
The house was constructed on behalf of Alexander Harris for his bride, Lizzie. Members
of the Harris family had been in the city for some time and were investment brokers in the
cotton trade. In 1869, two of the Harris brothers, Alexander and Aaron, died less than 24
hours apart, probably from Yellow Fever. Lizzie remarried two years later and sold
the house and land in 1879, to John Henry Maginnis.
At the time, John and Arthur Maginnis were two of the wealthiest and most well-connected
men in the South. Both John and his brother, Arthur, had married daughters of the powerful
New York politician, William 'Boss' Tweed. But they were known in New Orleans because
of the mammoth cotton mill they built and ran - the largest in the Gulf South. The huge
mill building still stands today in the Warehouse District, fronting on Annunciation Street.
In 1889, when he was 44 years old, John Maginnis was struck by lightning and killed at his
family's summer home on the Gulf Coast in Ocean Springs, MS. Mrs. Maginnis (also, named
Lizzie, just as the first lady who had occupied the house), stayed in the home until her
death in 1921. She willed the property to her daughter, who retained it until 1939,
when she donated it to the New Orleans Chapter of the American Red Cross.
During WWII and on into the 1950's, the house was a beehive of activity. Dozens of
volunteer programs and services either took place in the home or were conceived there.
Finally, in 1954, the Red Cross, having outgrown the house on Prytania Street, sold
it to Dr. CLyde Crassons and the home once more became a private residence.
In the early 2000's, the house underwent a long and exacting renovation, returning
it to its original character of beauty, grace and elegance. It was then that it became
known as Magnolia Mansion, an upscale boutique hotel.
|The historic Harris-Maginnis house today:
An elegant upscale boutique hotel, Magnolia Mansion
2127 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA
|The Cotton Mill, 1940's
|The old Maginnis Cotton Mill today.
|Photo Credits: Asergeev.com, Magnolia.Mansion
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|When Arthur Maginnis purhased this city square in 1881, it was occupied by some houses,
a lumberyard and the historic Duplesses Plantation house (built in 1765). These buildings
were torn down to make room for the mill, which became the largest cotton mill in the Gulf
South. It produced 21,000,000 yards of cotton every year. At its peak, the mill employed
more than 1,000 men, women and children, most of them Irish immigrants.
The Cotton Mill took up a square block, bounded by Annunciation, Constance, John
Chase and Poeyfarre Streets, and every inch of the space was used. Arthur Maginnis
owned the mill and John Maginnis owned a huge factory annex, which took up the next
whole city block.
The Maginnis family sold the business in 1914. The mill continued to produce cotton
products, but by World War II, parts of the building had been leased to other businesses.
All of the businesses closed or moved out of the building in the 1980's.
Though currently called "The Cotton Mill," the building is being put to quite a different
use - the old mill has been turned into condominiums.