Historical Research – Part 5

Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 in History | 4 comments

In which we find out exactly how old the house is and discover Victorian facebook entries.

At this point we were sure something had happened in 1892 but weren’t so sure we would ever know exactly what.  We left the Notarial Archives with an expensive stack of printed copies of the documents of sale and extreme hunger because we’d spent all afternoon there and missed lunch.

We stopped went for an early dinner at the very decent sushi restaurant a couple blocks from the new house on Magazine and Dave returned once more to his phone.   We thought we might have to scan microfiche from the archives of the Times-Picayune but once again people have been busy digitizing everything, it seems, and it makes our lives so much easier.

We found almost immediately an article mentioning the two great fires of April 4, 1892.  I immediately bought a subscription to the digital archives of the paper (and many other papers) and pulled up the front page from April 4.  Turns out two of the greatest conflagrations of the century happened back to back on that day: the first in the warehouse district and the second consumed the 3 block radius around our house.  Rather than paraphrase the article, because it makes such fine reading, I insert it below.

(I love how news reporting of the day didn’t bother to pretend to be professional and detached and instead read like a harlequin romance full of exclamation and superlative adjectives)

The great 2 Fires of April 1892








If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, the interesting highlighted passages to note are (in yellow):

 At the corner of Second and Magazine streets stood teh handsome residence of Mr. Moise Waldhorn.  The three story brick structure was completely enveloped in flames and in less than a half hour was burned to the ground

There you go.  You can’t get more definitive than that.  That was the precursor to our house burning down.

Also (in pink):

The two-story double frame dwelling corner of Magazine and Third, and facing Magazine, was, by a hard fight of the firemen, saved.  This building was occupied by Mr. Joseph Simon.  Mrs. Simon was ill in the house at the time and it was with great difficulty and some danger that she was safely carried out.”

That was Herman Levy’s mother-in-law with whom he would later live in the 1920’s!  Good thing she made it out OK.

The double two-story frame house adjoining was swept away very rapidly and only a pile of smoking bricks and timber were left to show where the pretty residence had stood.  This residence was owned by Mr. Charles Lob and occupied on one side by Mr. Lewis Goldstein and on the other by Mr. Lob.  Mr. Goldstein’s furniture was insured for $4,000.  The two story residence adjoining, owned also by Mr. Lob and occupied by Mrs. L. Cohn was completely destroyed; the furniture was insured for $4,000.

That’s Albertine’s uncle or cousin or whatever who she bought the property from 7 years before.  Looks like he owns half the neighborhood!

The residence of Mr. Sigmund Katz on the corner of Second and Magazine streets was slightly damaged about the front roof.  A man was kept on the roof with buckets, and by hard work saved the building.

That’s our neighbor directly across the street from us; still brick with wrought iron, still same shape as shown on the Robinson survey, still quite handsome.  Well done to the man with the bucket.

Also of interest in this article is to note that the paid NOFD was only created a year before in 1891 and they reference the “animosity felt” by the ex-volunteer firemen towards the now paid firemen and the fact that the police overlooked the “badge rule” and let the volunteers help fight the fire.  Also, since this uptown fire was the second fire and everyone was already busy downtown, they actually sent for a fire truck from Mobile Alabama by telegraph and it arrived in 2 hours.  2 Hours!?  Google maps tells us it takes almost 2 1/2 hours to get from New Orleans to Mobile now by car on the interstate.  But this article says they put a fire truck on a rail car and shot it over here in less time than that.  Wow.

So now we knew.  The brick house burned down in 1892 and our house was built in 1892-1893 by Moise Waldhorn.  It may very well have been built on foundations or partially using the foundations of the house built there in the 1850’s.  And while it’s possible the chandeliers which had been referenced specifically in previous sale documents might have been saved, perhaps they too are from an earlier age.  Or just as likely, Mr. Waldhorn, a dealer in jewelry and antiques, got his hands on some very nice already antique fixtures and put them in his house he built.  And yes, with its even floorboard and beautiful walnut paneling, the house itself was built in the 1890’s.

I couldn’t resist so I did a few more searches on Moise Waldhorn in the Picayune archives and found three more interesting things:

One was a notation the following year of the building going on in New Orleans which lists his new house (our house) as having been completed in 1893 for a total cost of $7,486:

Building Listing for August '92 - August '93

The second was a daring robbery of his jewelry store in broad daylight in 1908:

(click for full pdf of newspaper page)

Third was a listing in what must have been the society pages in which various (rich) folks publish on a daily basis if they are going to go visit friends in Baton Rouge or in Waldhorn’s case go fishing/hunting out on Grand Isle for his vacation.  People celebrated 7th birthdays, arrivals in the important hotels of the day were listed, anniversaries were celebrated.  Though how you would find your friends without a search function seems a bit daunting.  It was the facebook status/twitter of the day and it seems quite charming now to read.

You can click for the entire pdf of listings.  This is from August 9, 1891.  And look who’s going holidaying with him on Grand Isle – It’s the Lob’s!  Little did they know everything they owned would burn down 8 months later:

Facebook of the day (click for full pdf of all notices)

A trip to Grand Isle made sudden sense to us.  It seems his propensity for fishing and hunting excursions might explain the rather strong fishing and hunting motif of the most elaborate of all of our mantles after all:


  1. 11-1-2011

    Jess – this is super awesome!! Can’t wait to read it all!

  2. 11-2-2011

    This is fascinating. I cannot wait to read the next entry. Your new abode has housed and continues to house very interesting people. When your research is complete, you should consider turning this blog into a novel.

  3. 11-3-2011

    What a story – both yours and theirs. By creating this record you have probably just increased your property value. Now for the hard part…

    I can’t wait to watch the renovations progress.

  4. 1-16-2012

    Well done! Daunting research and then putting it all together for us to read?!? 🙂 So excited to keep reading about your renovations.