1515 Pauger Street
New Olreans, LA 70116
The only extant structure built by
Rosette Rochen, the Musee stands at 1515 Pauger Street in the
Faubourg Marigny of the eastern edge of the world-famed French
The house dates from about 1815 and has survived
as a fine and rare early example of a Creole cottage, the most
prevalent form of domestic housing in antebellum New Orleans.
As a historic house museum, the Musee Rosette Rochen seeks to
honor the accomplishments of New Orleans free people of color,
the most successful such population in the United States prior
to the Civil War, by depicting the people's long-lost lifestyle
of grace and dignity.
1515-17 Pauger Street ne Bagatelle
This is the only surviving structure of demoiselle Rochen f.c.l.
(free woman of color); one of a group of gen de couleur libres
(free persons of color). She purchased land in the Faubourg
Marigney - March 16,1806.
This Pauger Street Creole cottage was
probably built around 1830, possibly by Andre Marstain h.c.l.
(free man of color). He was known to have built other
buildings for her. The house is the proud result of a woman
of discernment and taste, though now sadly despoiled. It stills
exerts considerable charm, as dose its chatelaine.
The house, of significant historical and
architectural merit, cries out for a patient and knowledgeable
restoration to preserve it for posterity, as a vibrant example
of the arts of craftsmen who were Creoles of color. Don
Richmond has proposed to painstakingly restore this house as
museum of Creole artifacts profiling the important building
and decorative arts of this historical lifestyle. For more information
contact Don Richmond - 949-3326.
For Don Richmond, the old Creole cottage at 1515-17 Pauger St.
has always been more than just another old house in a colorful
section of the city.
Richmond, an interior designer who has renovated several homes
in New Orleans, said he "fell in love with the romance
of the building" nearly 20 years ago when he learned about
its connection to free people of color in New Orleans in the
He bought it in 1977 for $55,000 and lived
there two years before selling it for $65,000 and moving to
San Francisco. He lived there several years before moving
back to New Orleans.
In the meantime, the house fell into disrepair. In 1995, Richmond
lamenting the deterioration, bought the house again at a sheriff's
auction. He assumed a $20,000 mortgage and paid off $19,000
in liens against the property.
"Once I started thinking of the house as more than another
rental property, more than just a nice old building, I began
to realize how important it is to the city's history,"
Richmond said. "I started to picture it as it once was
and as it could be."
Richmond wants to turn the house into a museum that would reflect
the history of thousands of free people of color who settled
in the city and helped build it.
Home of Haitian refugee
The house was built by Rosette Rochon, who along with many others,
flooded New Orleans in the late 1700s to escape a revolution
in Haiti, Richmond's research showed.
Rochon became a successful businesswoman
in New Orleans and invested heavily in property, Richmond said.
Rochon acquired her first property in the city in 1806 and continued
purchasing property until her death in 1860, according to Richmond's
She owned several grocery stores and rental
property and made loans on which she earned interest.
She also owned slaves, whom she rented out, Richmond said. When
Rochon died in 1860, she left an estate valued at $98,000 that
included properties in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny.
The house on Pauger is the only part of her holdings that remain.
Rochon is believed to have built it as her residence between
1820 and 1835. Andre Martain Lamotte, a free man of color known
to have constructed other buildings for Rochon, probably built
the house, Richmond said.
The house is a typical Creole cottage with four rooms downstairs
and two dormered rooms upstairs. The main house has been converted
into two apartments. A separate building across the back of
the 30-by-60 lot contains another apartment. It originally housed
a kitchen, laundry, privy and other rooms.
Detailing on the house shows the influence of Greek revival
and gothic architecture.
The building is at its "lowest ebb"
now, Richmond said. "It needs some immediate work, but
more importantly, I want to see it restored and preserved long-term
now." He said.
Richmond has applied to the Louisiana Cultural Development Department
for a $20,000 matching grant to restore the house and dedicate
it as a museum. If he gets the grant, he will use the money
to stabilize the chimney, the roof and the dormers. He hopes
that grant will lead to other grants and support from the community.
An authentic restoration would cost about $500,000 Richmond
Once restored, Richmond envisions furnishing
it the way it would have looked in the 1800's, with exhibits
and videos about free people of color and their life in New
Orleans. It would be open for tours by students, locals
"These people had a major influence on the city and we
have nothing that reflects that,"Richmond said.
The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, which is among
the nation's largest repositories specializing in the history
of African-Americans, has a wealth of information about free
people of color in New Orleans.
Although the years have taken their toll
on the Pauger street house, it still reflects the way of life
it was built for. The sills at the bottom of the French
doors on the front of the building are worn from the feet of
countless children who once stood there watching life on the
street. A gallery that stretches across the back of the house
was used for dining.
"When it was built, people usually entered from the back.
That's were the living was done," Richmond said. "The
bedrooms were up front."
The architectural detail, the luxurious
touches, the craftsmanship all indicate that Rochon built the
houses as a residence, "It has so many details I don't
believe she built it as a rental," Richmond said.
Although many original details have been destroyed, Richmond
said the house still has some shutters, doorknobs and moldings
that can be copied during a restoration.
Richmond believes it could begin operating as a museum during
renovation, saying the restoration work itself would be an interesting
exhibit, as would the structural and construction features of
"I'm hopeful I'll get the grant and
this will become a museum," Richmond said. "So
much New Orleans history has slipped away while we weren't paying
attention. I don't want this to end up that way."
Don G. Richmond
Director/ Owner of
Musee Rosette Rochon Foundation