Ahh, the Avenue Inn. Thoughtfully designed in a Queen Anne architectural style, the Avenue Inn is set back comfortably from the main roads of New Orleans by a small garden oasis. Maze-like pathways lead guests from the hustle and bustle of the street to the front steps and veranda of this nineteenth-century mansion retreat.
The Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast offers guests the luxury of a property with old-world charm and the touch of modern amenities. Situated in the Garden District and just a few minutes from Magazine Street, the Avenue Inn is one of the best-located inns.
It’s said that the Avenue Inn provides its guests with a perfect getaway feel after long hours of exploring the city.
As with most historic properties, the Avenue Inn comes with some spooky quirks, like interesting past owners and mysterious happenings… what more could you ask for?
History of The Avenue Inn
The Avenue Inn was once the home of Henry Picard, a wealthy merchant, and his family. He decided he wanted to commission a new home in the best location possible, the Upper Saint Charles Avenue area, also known as the Garden District. It was surely up-and-coming during the late 19th century, and Picard wanted to be a part of it.
Picard hired architect Thomas Sully to design the property. Sully was considered one of the most innovative and creative architects of the time and was a wonderful choice for Picard. Sully had designed homes with various architectural influences, so he knew exactly what to do when Picard told him he wanted a Queen Anne-style home with all the bells and whistles.
Sully enlisted the help of builder L.C. LeCorgne, and in 1891, the home was completed for $12,000, a staggering amount in the day. Sully was so dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind properties that he designed unique wooden medallions in each property he was commissioned to build — at the Avenue Inn, one of Sully’s markings can be found by the front entrance in the shape of an arrow with curved and ridged edges.
Harry Picard passed away in 1902, and the residence soon shifted into new hands.
The Waldhorn Period
After Picard’s passing, the home was purchased by Moise Waldhorn and his family. Moise was born in Alsace-Lorraine, a German province between modern-day France and Germany. He immigrated to New Orleans sometime during the 1870s and found work as a clerk at a loan shop. It wasn’t bad business, but Waldhorn hoped for more.
By 1881, Moise had full ownership of the People’s Loan Office, a former bank at the corner of Royal and Conti streets in the historic French Quarter. He converted the property into a curiosity and jewelry business, advertising his business as ‘Antique Treasures from Old Creole Families.’
The items sold at the shop were, in fact, from Creole families, but they were being sold by those who were wrecked by the Civil War and balanced on the edge of being impoverished.
Soon he began to travel to acquire the finest jewelry and other antiques. By the early 20th century, when he and his family moved into the Avenue Inn property, he had built the most luxurious antique shop in New Orleans.
Waldhorn saw some interesting visitors in his shop, including Josie Arlington, Storyville’s most notorious madame, who came to the store every December to purchase jewelry for the prostitutes who worked in her brothel.
Bad luck soon befell the Waldhorn family when Moise fell ill. He was so sick that he took his own life. On Halloween 1910, a newspaper in Texas reported that ‘Moise Waldhorn, a prominent jeweler and dealer in antiquities, committed suicide at his place of business here today by shooting — his act attributed to his ill health.’
Despite his untimely death, his family continued to live at the home until 1919. Waldhorn Antiques still exists at 343 Royal Street for those readers who love historic pieces!
Time For Felines
Before the current owners, Joe and Bebe Rabhan, purchased the property in the early 2000s, the property operated as a boardinghouse. From the 1950s until the 1990s, the mansion was owned by Jeanie Ellison, known as the neighborhood cat lady. She owned over one hundred felines, which were housed all on the property.
She was, of course, known to be rather eccentric, and she operated the building as a boardinghouse for 45 years. The home soon fell into disrepair until the Rebhans arrived to rescue the abode.
According to Joe, his wife Bebe had always tossed around the idea of becoming innkeepers in their older age.
After purchasing the property, it took a ton of work and historic preservation. Reconstructing the entire property into the Victorian-era beauty that it is today did not come easy — after visiting Tulane’s Architectural Archives to learn what they could about the mansion, only to find one page about the home, some of its information included some weird occurrences that had been reported.
Strange Activity at the Inn
On one occasion, a guest trekked to the office one-morning complaining of seeing a cat by her fireplace before falling asleep. She complained that the inn was said to be pet free; why was there a cat in her room?
She then realized what was going on — the cat had only appeared for a second and then disappeared, she remembered.
Perhaps this is just the spirit of one of Jeanie’s cats still roaming the inn.
Some guests have reported feeling the beds on the second floor shaking beneath them, while others heard singing coming from the old Nanny’s quarters. The sound of knocking is also commonly reported.
As for the rest of the strange happenings, you may have to visit the Avenue Inn to experience them.
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