The Presbytere Museum
Jackson Square – New Orleans, LA
History – The Presbytere Museum is located in Jackson Square at the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The building flanks the north side of the historic St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1796 as a part of the original Spanish government installation, its sister building, Cabildo is on the south side of the cathedral and was built in 1794. Originally built to house clergy members, the Presbytere was transformed into a commercial center, and then became home to the Supreme Court of Louisiana. The Presbytere has become a part of the Louisiana State Museum and is dedicated to housing and displaying relics and costumes of New Orleans’ world-famous Mardi Gras.
In 2005, the Lathan Company restored the entire exterior of the Presbytere. This included a new slate roof restoration, restoration of the French-style dormers, restoration of the stucco finish, restoration of all windows, and the recreation of some of the ornamental iron works including hinges, window bars, and gates. The most significant feature of this project was the replacement of the cupola, which had been knocked off of the structure by a hurricane in 1915. The cupola was reconstructed entirely of authentic materials using mortis and tenon timber frame techniques to reconstruct the structural frame precisely as it had been in 1796. Care was taken to utilize only authentic materials, including Southern Cypress certified as having 150 years of age or more for each timber provided. The railings and newel post were replicated in the same authentic manner and installed with the utmost attention to preserving the historical integrity of the structure. The “bird feather” slates applied to the cupola were carefully blended from various colors of square, round and chisel point slates and cut to fit the curvature of the bell shaped cupola. The dome was capped off with a copper spire, making it absolutely identical to its twin cupola which sits atop the Cabildo. The cupola was installed just days before Hurricane Katrina hit the City of New Orleans in August of 2005, and survived without the loss of a single slate.