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Designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere, originally called Casa Curial or "Ecclesiastical House" was built on the residence of the Capuchin monks. However, despite original intentions and its current name, the Presbytere was never used by the clergy. Instead, it held commercial enterprises until 1834, when it became a courthouse. In 1911, it became a part of the Louisiana State Museum.


  • The Presbytere and Louisiana State Museum as it appears today
  • Unfinished Presbytere as it appeared in 1803: At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, only the first floor was complete. Presbytere appears on the right. | Source: Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum.
  • The Presbytere in 1813, with second story completed. Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum.
  • Presbytere from Jackson Square, circa 1900: The cupola, added in 1847, is visible. The cupola went missing during the New Orleans Hurricane of 1915 and has not been recovered as of today. It was replaced in 2005 Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum.
Originally called the Casa Curial (Ecclesiastical House), the Presbytère derives its name from its location as the former site of the residence, or presbytére, of the Capuchin monks. Although designed in 1791 by Gilberto Guillemard to match the Cabildo, or Town Hall, on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral, construction on the building went slowly; a city fire in 1794 halted construction until 1798. As a result, it took seven years to complete the first floor (1798) and another 15 years to complete the second floor (1813).   

Despite its original purpose of housing clergy, the Presbytère served as a both a commercial building and home to the lower Federal courts until 1834, and then it served as the home to the Louisiana Supreme Court until 1853 when Cathedral officials sold the Presbytère to the city. The building again changed hands in 1908 because New Orleans sold it to the state, which fostered its new purpose as the Louisiana State Museum, opening In 1911. 

The building received National Historic Landmark status in 1970. In 2005, the cupola, lost in the New Orleans hurricane of 1915, was replaced atop the Presbytère. 

The principal goal of the museum involves a demonstration of two facets of New Orleans life; both centered on the idea of survival, whether it be through human strife or that of natural disasters -- hurricanes. The first permanent exhibition is titled, "Mardi Gras: It's Carnival Time in Louisiana." The festival's musical expression, Middle Ages roots, and historical traditions are all explored in the exhibit. The second exhibition focuses on the many hurricanes that have affected New Orleans, notably Hurricane Katrina. The display enjoys a title, "Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond." 
Chambon, Celestin M.  In and Around the Old St. Louis Cathedral of New Orleans. New Orleans: Philippe's Printery: 1908.

Chambon, Celestine M., and James Joseph Alcée Fortier. The St. Louis Cathedral and its Neighbors. [New Orleans]: Louisiana State Museum: 1938.

Chambon, Celestin M. Notes Gathered from the Archives of the Cathedral Church of St. Louis, New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans: Howard Memorial Library: 1908. 

Coleman, William Head.  Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs. New York: W.H. Coleman: 1885.

Mary Ann Wegmann, The Law Library of Louisiana, and University of New Orleans History Department, “The Presbytère: Home of the Louisiana Supreme Court, 1822-1853 ,” New Orleans Historical, accessed February 3, 2017,http://www.neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/804.

Presbytere History, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS 18-5,  Library of Congress, 1935.

Rightor, Henry. Standard History of New Orleans, Louisiana. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company: 1900.

Wardens of the Church of St. Louis of New Orleans v. Antoine Blanc, Bishop of New Orleans, 8 Rob. 51, 1844 La. Lexis 96 (La. June 1844).



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