Maison Blanche

I am a newlywed.  It is still strange saying it or typing it.  You plan and talk about this event everyday for months and then when the time flies by.  I never actually believed people when they said it goes by fast but wow!  During these past few weeks I've been oogling our wedding photos done by the amazing Sarah DeShaw.  They are so beautiful and I have enjoyed reliving all the little moments that are such a blur to me now. bridesmaids

As one of my "something borrowed" and "something old" pieces I wore my great grandmother's mink stole during the ceremony over my gown.  I noticed in one of the photos the label in the mink read, Maison Blanche New Orleans.  Having an affinity for the "finer things" like antiques and vintage clothing, I had to do some digging about this store.

mink stole

I found out quite a bit!  New Orleanians flocked to Maison Blanche for its opening day on Oct. 30, 1897. The grand department store on Canal Street employed 600 workers and had a selling space of 60,580 square feet, according to The Daily Picayune.

Original Maison Blanche building

Located at the corner of Canal and Dauphine streets, the original Maison Blanche building was heralded as a palace by The Daily Picayune, which dubbed it "the finest department store in the South." The paper reported that the store was executed “with more daring and on a more superb scale than anything yet attempted in this city or in any Southern city.”

Maison Blanche

After doing more research, I found out that the ornate original 2nd Empire building was merely a placeholder on the block for the owners of the Maison Blanche Department store owners- the Shwartz-Isaacs company.  They envisioned a modern skyscraper- creating a massive and comprehensive shopping experience that would entice travelers to choose New Orleans, rather than New York, as a shopping destination.  The original Maison Blanche store opened on Canal Street in 1897.  Construction on the new building began in 1906 and lasted until 1909.

After the original building was replaced by a gleaming new Beaux-Arts building in the early 20th century, the store housed non-retail ventures as well. New Orleanians grew up going to the doctor's or dentist's office in the Maison Blanche building. The city's first radio station, WSMB, was founded in 1925 and made its home on the 13th floor.

Maison Blanche

Maison Blanche

The owners of the department store had accomplished their goal of creating an enormous department store that rivaled the opulence and extravagance of the famed Bergdorff Goodman store in New York.  Maison Blanche was sold to several chains over its history, until it was acquired by Dillard's. The store was shuttered for good soon after, in the summer of 1998. In 2000, the Ritz-Carlton hotel moved into the building and is still there today.

Although the gorgeous original building did not survive, it is encouraging that its predecessor is still in the flagship location and is still being used today.

I've often thought about what it would be like to spend time with my great grandmother as an fun it would be to step back in time and go peruse the designer millinery shop on the second floor and have lunch with her at the MB Rendevous Restaurant.  Those days of extravagance are long gone for most but it is fun to daydream about shopping in such a store.

Food Blog South 2013

Sunday funday: Oak Park Inn