On the wall of 516 Gov. Nicholls St., three stories up, is a faded text that reads "A. Botsay/Box Factory." It's not entirely legible. Who was Botsay and what kind of boxes did he make?
Before the street was renamed after Gov. Francis T. Nicholls, it was Hospital Street for 180 years. And 516 Hospital St. was the residence and business of Alexander Botsay, a pioneer cigar box maker of the South. It was about 1860 that Botsay introduced the cigar box industry to New Orleans. Before that, cigar boxes were imported.
Botsay came to New Orleans in 1856 from Budapest. He was a revolutionary when the Hungarians fought against Austria for their freedom. He married in New Orleans and eventually had a large family and a successful business.
When the Northern blockade cut off the city's supplies during the Civil War, Botsay saw an opportunity. He bought up old cigar boxes and reworked them for his trade. He did well, receiving as much as 50 cents per box.
Botsay stayed active in his business well into his eighties. He died Dec. 22, 1913.