What more can be said about Morphy's house?
Well, it seems, a lot.
First let me recap what I already knew and related:
The two story structure as we know it today was built by Don Vincente Rillieux in 1795. After Rillieux died, his widow, Dame Maria Fonquet Rillieux, gave the property to her son-in-law, Santiago Freret. On June 2, 1801, Freret relinquished the title to Don Jose Faurie for 8,650 Mexican pesos.
The first transaction of the Royal Street property on record occurred on December 3, 1794, when Gaspar Debuys and Huberto Remy purchased the land from Angela Monget. On December 8, just five days later, the great fire of 1794 destroyed more than two hundred buildings in the city, including whatever buildings existed at 417 Royal Street. While the Spanish still ruled Louisiana, Don Vincente Rillieux, the great-grandfather of the French artist Edgar Degas, bought the land from Debuys and Remy. The purchase occurred on January 8, 1795, exactly one month after the fire. Records show that Debuys and Remy sold their lot, including the ruins of their building. The lot still had the original dimensions assigned by Pauger of 60 feet x 120 feet.
Don Jose Faurie not only lived in the mansion Rillieux had built, but conducted his business there also. On January 26, 1805, Faurie sold his house to Julien Poydras. Julien Poydras was the president of the newly organized Banque de la Louisiane (founded on March 11, 1804, by Governor Claiborne) and he converted his new purchase into a banking facility.
The bank was the first financial institution to be operated in New Orleans as well as in all of the territory secured by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Extensive renovations of the building by the bank included the addition of an intricately designed wrought-iron balcony railing with the bank's LB monogram, a compelling example of ferronnier’s art that still exists within the structure today.
In 1819, after the original Louisiana Bank had outlived its charter, the ground floor of the building was occupied temporarily by the Louisiana State Bank. On October 5,1820, the liquidators of La Banque de la Louisiane sold the property to Martin Gordon, a socially prominent Virginia gentleman and clerk of the United States District Court.
The Gordon family was noted for its lavish hospitality. The family home soon became the center of fashionable Creole social activities. Gordon was active in the politics of the day and a friend of General Andrew Jackson. General Jackson was the guest of honor at many lavish banquets staged at the Gordon home. After Andrew Jackson became President, he appointed Martin Gordon to the office of Collector of the Port of New Orleans in appreciation of Gordon's generosity and hospitality.
Unfortunately, in 1841 the Gordon Family met with financial reverses. The building was seized by the Citizen's Bank and sold at auction by the sheriff. Judge Alonzo Morphy, a former state attorney general and a member of Louisiana's high court, purchased the building
Judge Morphy was the father of Paul Morphy. This is the house where Paul learned to play chess from his uncle Ernest; where he grew up; where he always returned and where he lived until his death in 1884. Alonzo Morphy moved to New Orleans in 1809 from Charleston, South Carolina where his family had lived first on King Street and then Meeting Street.
In New Orleans, he met and married Louise Therese Thelcide Le Carpentier, the daughter of Joseph Essau Le Carpentier and Modest Blanche Le Carpentier and lived in the newly constructed mansion at 1113 Chartres Street. In 1841, Alonzo and Thelcide packed up their four children, Edward, Malvina, Paul and Helena and moved to their new home on 89 Royal Street, which would later be re-numbered to 417. Malvina and John Sybrandt had returned from England and moved in after the death of of Helena, the last survivor of the household, in 1886. According to Regina Morphy, they moved out after a while seeking smaller quarters uptown and the house was occupied by strangers until it was sold at auction, along with Paul's trophies and prizes, as part of the settlement in 1991. Malvina and John both died in 1894. Paul Morphy himself died on July 10 1884, followed closely by his mother on January 11, 1885.
One unusual feature of the house, it's been said, was that Judge Morphy had designed a huge chess board on the floor of one of the upstairs rooms for his son's delight.
After the sale of the property by the executors of the Morphy estate, it passed through several owners. It was finally purchased by William Ratcliffe Irby, who acquired his fortune in tobacco, dairy products and banking, and, as a member of the Board of Administrators of Tulane University, donated the property at 417 Royal Street to Tulane University in 1920. Owen Edward Brennan rented the property from Tulane University in 1954, renovating and restoring it's original charm while converting it into the restaurant that exists today. In 1984, Owen's three sons, Pip, Jimmy and Ted, purchased the building from Tulane University.
The Double Dealer literary Magazine was published in New Orleans from 1921-1926 by The Double Dealer Publishing Company of 204 Baronne Street, New Orleans, La.
Reprint by Kraus Reprint Corporation, 1966
DOUBLE DEALER Vol. 1, 1921
By Julius Weis Friend
"I can deceive them both by speaking the truth."
ONE has but to glance over the columns of the local press to become aware of the astonishing activities which are taking place in that section of New Orleans familiarly known as the Vieux Carre. Whereas, a walk down the Rue Royale would do more than confirm the impression that present-day New Orleans has at length begun to recognize the charm and possibilities of the "old town." Certainly nowhere in this country may one discover envircns at once so quaint and colorful.
The native Latin note, always so conspicuous in the South's metropolis, hereabouts fairly captivates you. A fine sort of old world flavor insinuates itself as you cross the Rue Bienville in your Royal progress toward La Maison Morphy, L'Ombre de la Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Place d'Armes, and Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in the lower Pontalba building.
For some moons it has been my design to call attention in these pages to the admirable work being done by the Little Theater group in New Orleans. Now in its third winter this coterie of enthusiastic amateurs has met with a reception which, I believe, far exceeds any they had counted upon. Withal, a reception well-earned, well-deserved. When an altruistic enterprise becomes not only a social, but a financial success, one begins to conjecture upon the dubious possibilities of kindred undertakings.
The formal opening of La Maison Morphy marks- the inception of another creditable and, one hazards, not inauspicious adventure into the limbo of dilettantedom. Your flaneur of today unlike your beau of yesterday, prefers (or, nolens volens, pretends to prefer) small talk and tea to gusto and whisky. Today's flaneurs being, for the most part feminine, bless them, and whisky, of course, taboo, one is inclined to protest with Browning that "God's, etc." — begging your indulgence, Mrs. Nietzsche!
Returning to La Maison Morphy. Within its hallowed precincts dwelt for a time and died one Paul Morphy, King of the king of games, chess champion extraordinary. Always a strange lad, fey from the first, he early displayed that peculiarly uncanny brilliance which ordinarily spells madness or a premature end to its possessor. So, this old building which was originally the home of the Banque de la Louisiane, the first bank in the Mississippi Valley, constructed twelve decades ago, has been carefully and ingeniously rehabilitated and dedicated to the memory of this Morphy, whose father's residence it became during the forties and fifties.
Herein are assembled four separate businesses, videlicet — The Patio Royal, a tea room ; Chic Parisien, a distinctive French establishment (lingerie, etc.) ; the Paul Morphy Book Shop, and Gallup, Inc., interior decorators. Of the quartet, I find the book shop most to my taste. Your pardon, Mesdames .and Messieurs, but my knowledge of lingarie, cuisine and decorative values is, I confess, quite restricted. May all success attend your ventures and judging from the brave array of pulchritude exhibited on your premises the gay Sieur du Success will not be long in finding his way to your doors.
But the book shop! One sees or seems to see in such a shop the commencement of a new regime in lettered
<>. The place has all the charm of an artist's rendezvous with perhaps the one pleasant failing of freshness and femininity. However, by this very token, it achieves an atmosphere - vhich might be found lacking in a more perfunctory, less feminine establishment. Books there are here and about, bidding you peep behind their gaudy jackets. In time, of course, there will be a larger array, rarer and more diversified — first editions, association items, Americana, incunabula, preciosa, etc. — but all in time. Here, in any event, is a valiant beginning and one that deserves all the encouragement we shamefully diffident Southerners (when it comes to things literary) can give it.
What the South, and in a lesser degree New Orleans, needs more than modern office buildings, large industries, giant factories, bloated commerce and frenzied finance (with all due respect to their significance) is just what the persons behind the Little Theater movement, the Quartier, Arts and Crafts, and Bridlegoose Clubs, the lecture courses, 'La Maison Morphy and THE DOUBLE DEALER are giving it or trying to give it without thought of profit and applause. But interdependence as ever prevails, and quixotically constructive enterprises depending, more or less, upon the support of the community's intelligentsia, must either receive this support or sink into the Sisyphusean futility of finer things.