I live on Esplanade Avenue near Chartres Street, and I was wondering if you could give me any information about the huge, old mansion at 807 Esplanade Ave.
This three-story plastered-brick Greek Revival townhouse was built for Capt. William Whann in 1859 by the firm Little and Middlemiss. It cost $18,750.
Before Whann's house was erected, however, a smaller, more modest house was on the site. It was owned by Judah P. Benjamin, a trusted advisor to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.
In his contract with the builders, Whann stipulated that the front steps, sills and lintels of the entire house were to be of the "best Quincy granite." He ordered stairs with "handrails of mahogany, handsomely moulded and mounted on fancy turned mahogany balusters." Whann also insisted the fireplaces in the parlor have marble mantles. Hot and cold running water was required in the bathroom and kitchen.
The house included wine rooms, store rooms, wood and coal houses, gas pipes with burners, bells with pulls, a 5,000-gallon cistern and a water hydrant that connected with the local commercial water works.
Its twin used to be across the street on the corner of Bourbon Street and Esplanade Avenue. That house was erected by William Montgomery, who also built the common-wall townhouses at 810 and 812 Esplanade Ave. The twin house was demolished after 1900.
Today, the home you are asking about is known as the Whann-Bohn House because it was purchased in 1866 by August Bohn. More recently, the house was owned by Leon Impastato, a French Quarter landowner.
The old mansion is getting a new life. In 2007 it was purchased for about $1.7 million by a group of investors who have been renovating it for use by the movie industry. They plan to create sound studios, editing rooms and a screening area as well as apartments where directors, editors and technicians can stay while movies are in post-production. The idea is to keep more film business in town during the lengthy post-production stage, which can amount to 25 to 30 percent of a film's cost.