The Spanish Custom House, the oldest property on Bayou St. John, and among the oldest houses in New Orleans, will be sold at auction on February 10. There is no reserve and this may be a great opportunity for the right buyer to purchase a truly spectacular piece of history at an equally spectacular price. The house is currently part of an estate and has been on the market for several years, most recently priced at $1.675 Million. In the words of the estate executor, “This could truly be one of the jewels of the city.”
The actual construction date of the house is not known, but the house is mentioned in an estate inventory from 1784, and a brick in the attic is also inscribed with that date. The house survived the devastating fire of 1788 that claimed much of the city and more recently, avoided flooding from the equally devastating ravages of Katrina. The house has always been in private hands, and never served as a government building or custom house (despite the name, which is of uncertain origin). Preservation advocates are hopeful that the house will be purchased by an individual or group who will keep it open to the public. “The main point for us is to make sure the Spanish Custom House has good ownership, meaning someone who honors the historic fabric of the house,” said Susan Lloyd McClamroch, director of the Pitot House, a nearby museum.
Much of that historic fabric remains intact. Many of the home’s original details are still present, including the doors in the upstairs parlors and the dentillated cornice and cypress fireplace in one of those upstairs rooms. Modern additions are layered into the building as well, including a major addition built in 1927. Although there are some twentieth-century replacements, the house contains an outstanding collection of iron hardware- hinges, pintels, top and bottom bolts, escutcheons, latches, and other items dating from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A detailed study of the building was done by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in the 1930s. For more on HABS, check out our earlier post on the HABS website, or check out the Spanish Custom House drawings and an extensive architectural description and history.
Bidders for the property need to bring a bank check for $50,000 to register. Registration will be held at the home on Tuesday, February 10, from 9AM-Noon CST, and the auction will be held at Noon. Brokers are invited to register buyers and are entitled to a 3% Buyer Broker Commission. The property is located at the corner of Moss Avenue and Grand Route Saint John (check out the Google Map & Street View). The auction is being conducted by Neal Auction Company of New Orleans . Visit their website for complete information and a 6-page brochure.