OLIVIER HOUSE HOTEL: A BRIEF HISTORY
The history of the Olivier House Hotel is a colorful tapestry woven with the threads of early French Creole New Orleans. The hotel is a collection of historic French Quarter homes and courtyards, dominated by the Olivier-Locoul house. Built in 1839 for Madame Marieanne Bienvenu Olivier de Vezin, the hotel retains the name of the family matriarch who built it.
From sketchbook of Jacques-Nicolas Bussière de Pouilly
Madame Olivier engaged the services of Monsieur Jacques Nicolas Bussiere de Pouilly, one of the most prominent architects of early New Orleans, to design her home. Among many of Monsieur de Pouilly’s notable architectural accomplishments was the final renovation of St Louis Cathedral in the mid 1800’s. He is largely responsible for its present look. Madame Olivier’s home was built in the Creole Greek Revival style, and remains one of the best preserved examples of this architectural style in the French Quarter today.
The ground floor remains much as it was in Madame Olivier’s day – with the entry hall, double parlor, and main courtyard. From the main courtyard, room 105 was the original kitchen of the house, which still has the large hearth where the family meals were prepared. The rooms to the back of the main courtyard were the livery, where the family’s horses and carriage were cared for. The rooms on the upper floor around the courtyard were the slave quarters, accessed by the staircase tucked away in the arched alcove (these stairs are no longer used).
The second floor contained the master bedroom, and a large ballroom, which was later divided into guest rooms. The upper floor was family bedrooms.
3 other smaller historic homes combine to make up the present day Olivier House Hotel, the oldest of which being a creole cottage which dates from 1812.
Both Madame Olivier’s maiden “Bienvenu” family and the Olivier family have deep roots which run back to the earliest colonial days of Louisiana. Mrs. Olivier’s husband, Nicholas Joseph Godfroi Olivier de Vezin, was a Revolutionary War veteran. His Grandfather was sent by King Louis XIV of France to the colony of Louisiana to establish the first network of roads and bridges.
The Olivier’s were the first of 3 lines of minor French Nobility who made their homes in this grand house.
Madame Olivier’s father owned and oversaw 3 plantations, and was very active in the early political life of the city.
Madame Olivier was the matriarch of a large portion of Creole New Orleans society. At the time of her death she was mother, grand-mere, or great-grand-mere to over 60 descendants.
After Madame. Olivier’s death, the house was purchased by Elizabeth Locoul, and remained in the Locoul family through 3 generations. The Locoul family also boasted a rich and colorful French-Creole history, operating a sugar plantation in St James parish (now known as Laura Plantation, which is open to visitors), along with other ventures, including importing wine from their ancestral homeland of Bordeaux, France.
Elizabeth’s daughter, Aimee maintained the house throughout her life, though she spent much of her adult life in Paris, Aimee died in New Olreans in 1889 and is also buried in the Locoul family crypt. Aimee married a French Count, Monsieur Ivan Charles de Lobel-Mahy.
Elizabeth was the matriarch of her family, and guided the family through many colorful events, including the War Between the States. During the Occupation of New Orleans, the Union army took possession of the home to house Union Officers and Soldiers. The soldiers were very abusive of the house, save for the 3rd floor. Madame Locoul believed the soldiers refrained from damaging the 3rd floor (where family bedrooms were located) because of a trunk belonging to her late husband which was clearly visible – and displayed symbols of the Free Masons. It was often thought that Free Masons in the invading northern army would show respect towards property which displayed symbols of Free-Masonry in the south, and not subject them to the same abuse they might have shown other Southerners and their property.
After her death in 1884, Elizabeth was buried in the famous St Louis Cemetery No. 1, a few blocks away, in the Locoul family crypt.
Subsequently, Aimee’s daughter, Francoise retained the house. Francoise married well, also. Her husband was a notable character, Monsieur Paul D’Abzac, a French Vis-Compte, diplomat for the French Republic, and noted writer. The Vis-Compte D’abzac served in the French diplomatic corps in many exotic and far-flung places, including Asuncion, Paraguay, Riga, Latvia, & New York, among others, before being stationed in New Orleans.
Francoise sold the home in 1940, before passing away in Paris in 1945.
There was a brief departure during the “Locoul” years in the 1920’s when the house was rented by Francoise Locoul to an Italian man named Salvatore Valenti. Mr. Valenti owned the adjacent house on the Bourbon St side (which has since been torn down to make room for what is now the Sheraton Hotel’s parking lot). Mr. Valenti briefly used the Olivier House as a funeral parlor, celebrating wakes and funerals in what is now our guests’ parlor.
In 1940 Mrs. Bessy Brown purchased the home sight unseen, after inheriting, then selling her ancestral plantation in Mississippi. Soon afterwards Mrs. Brown began taking in guests and tenants, as the home was very large for a single widow living alone.
The 1960’s saw a through renovation converting the large home into apartments – at which time modern amenities were added.
Jim and Kathryn Danner purchased the property in 1970 and converted it into a boutique hotel. It is presently operated by their children.