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New Orleans' Beauregard-Keyes House & Gardens

Michael and a tour guide
Garden expert Mary Fonesca gives Michael a tour of the redesigned garden.

The parterre garden of the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans' famed French Quarter is a symphony of formal simplicity.

One of the most romantic and fascinating old houses in a city which boasts of many interesting landmarks is the sumptuous house at 1113 Chartres Street, in the heart of the city's fable French Quarter. It was constructed in 1826 by Joseph Le Carpentier, a well-to-do auctioneer. When Le Carpentier built the house — now known as the Beauregard-Keyes House — it also included a side garden on the corner of Chartres and Ursulines Streets. This was unusual even then, for most homes in the French Quarter had gardens tucked away out of sight. Open on two sides, Le Carpentier's garden was described by some at the time as "a jungle."

Seven years later, the property came into the possession of John A. Merle, Switzerland's consul in New Orleans. His wife, Madame Anais Philippon Merle, planned and planted a formal parterre garden and enclosed it with brick walls. She had grill windows added so passersby could look in at the a garden.

The grounds
The new garden's design was based on Madame Merle's original plans.

In 1865, following the conclusion of the Civil War, Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, returned to New Orleans and lodged in the house for 18 months. Madame Merle's garden remained there for over 30 years, but the house slowly sank into dilapidation and in 1925, having had many owners already, the property changed hands again, its new owner announcing his intention to erect a macaroni factory on the lot. But the fact that General Beauregard had once lived in the house aroused the interest of a group of fervent southern ladies, who raised funds to save the house, even though the factory demolished the garden.

In 1944, a well-known novelist named Frances Parkinson Keyes came to Louisiana and rented the house, eventually taking it over from the ladies' group to start work on restoration. Mrs. Keyes made the cottage her winter residence for a quarter of a century and wrote several of her books here, among then Dinner At Antoine's, Chess Player (Paul Morphy), and Blue Camellia. Mrs. Keyes employed the able restoration architects Koch and Wilson, who transformed the house back into the stately edifice it once had been.

The gate
The garden walls were rebuilt, complete with Madame Merle's grill windows.

In the 1950s, Mrs. Keyes also acquired the property on the corner and planned to turn it back into a formal garden. Again with the aid of Koch and Wilson, the factory building was demolished and the bricks were used to rebuild the garden walls, complete with Madame Merle's grill windows. The design of the new garden was also based on Madame Merle's original plans, which were in safe-keeping in the archives of Tulane University.

In the 1960s, the Garden Study Club used Madame Merle's plan to replant the garden with plants popular in New Orleans from the 1830s to the 1860s. The club has voluntarily provided care and maintenance to the garden ever since.

Today, with lavish magnolias and sculpted boxwoods, the current garden is designed to have seasonal blooms with a background of various evergreens. The garden's center features a cast-iron fountain that adds the pleasant gurgle of flowing water. Visitors are welcome to the historic Beauregard-Keyes House, where guided tours are given by docents in period costume weekdays from 10am to 3pm.

Partial Plant List:

Late Winter/Early Spring
Yellow Carolina Jessamine
White Sasangua
White Camellia
White Snow Flakes in the Asian Jasmine
Red Pomegranate
Old Roses

Sweet Olive
White Azalea
Citrus Blossoms
Cape Jasmines
Louisiana Iris
Southern Magnolia
Japaneses Plum or Loquat Fruit
Old Roses

Early and Late Summer
Nandina or Heavenly Bamboo
White Crape Myrtle
Yellow Day-Lily
White Double Althea or Rose of Sharon
Red Pomegranate

Deep Red and Yellow Crape Myrtle Leaves
Red Leaves and Berries of Nandina or Heavenly Bamboo
Red "Naked Lady" Lily
Sweet Olive

Evergreen Shrubs
White Japanese Plum or Loquat Blooms
On the iron

This segment appears in show #2801.

Informational material on the house and garden supplied courtesy of the Beauregard-Keyes House.

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Published August 31, 2007