Your recent column mentioning the Pitot House (Blake Pontchartrain, March 29) got me to thinking. Wasn't it moved to its current location sometime in the 1950s or '60s? Where was it before then?
Your memory serves you well. The structure known as the Pitot House physically moved about 200 feet along Bayou St. John in the 1960s, but it took more than 165 years for it to get there.
Built around 1799, the Pitot House is named for the fourth owner of the house — James Pitot, the city's first American mayor. According to a history of the building by architect and historian Samuel Wilson Jr., Pitot owned and lived in the Creole colonial plantation-style house from 1810 to 1819. Its original location at 1370 Moss St. was feet away from where it now stands at 1440 Moss St. It remains one of the only surviving examples of a Louisiana plantation home from the Spanish colonial period.
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, whose namesake high school is nearby, purchased the property in 1904. In the 1930s, it was converted into a convent for her order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In 1963, when the nuns planned to demolish the building to make room for a new school, the Louisiana Landmarks Society stepped in to save and relocate the historic structure.
Roosevelt Hotel owner Seymour Weiss contributed $10,000 to the effort, which was led by Wilson and his partner, architect Richard Koch. Preservationists Leonard Huber and Harnett Kane, president of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, also were instrumental. The group raised an additional $5,000 to dismantle the building and move its brick-between-posts main floor and plastered brick columns. The masonry ground floor could not be moved and was rebuilt at the new location. The project was interrupted by Hurricane Betsy, which caused severe damage to the building.
The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and two years later it opened to the public as a museum and the headquarters of the Louisiana Landmarks Society. Furnished with antiques, it is open for tours and special events.