Place d’Armes – The Return of Students
The Place d’Armes Hotel, located on St. Anne Street in the French Quarter, was the location of the first school established in French Colonial Louisiana. Established in 1725 by Father Raphael de Luxembourg, the school was housed in a small, wood framed structure adjacent to the Place d’Armes (the current site of the St. Louis Cathedral). It was the first school to offer regular classes in the French Colony of Louisiana. Reports from the time indicate that it only offered classes to boys and that due to a lack of interest in education, only had a max of 30 students. With the help and support of the Ursaline Convent and the Catholic Church, the school prevailed and grew. By the 1750’s the current building was in disrepair and a decision was made to sell the property and move the school to be included as part of the church.On Good Friday, March 21, 1788, a great fire swept through what is now recognized as the French Quarter. A two-story brick house, with a two story kitchen in the courtyard was built on the property and it was purchased by Julien Poydras, a Louisiana philanthropist, who died shortly after the purchase. In 1832, the property size was increased to its present dimensions. It was a single family home until 1909, when it was divided into apartments by Anthony J. Valentino.
The location is now home to the Place d’Armes hotel. It is a simple three story brick building, with a small, yet welcoming lobby, decorated in golds and reds. Small, narrow hallways open up onto balconies overlooking a courtyard, with lush tropical foliage and a koi pond. From its external balconies, one can see Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral.
According to stories, several students, teachers and the headmaster of the school were killed in the Good Friday fire. Guests to the hotel report seeing a bearded man in period clothing standing in the lobby or walking along one of the balconies. Other guests have also reported seeing a young girl in period clothing, asking about her grandmother. Guests have also reported hearing children’s laughter and voices and mysterious footsteps in the hallways.
Wilson, S. (1961). The Capuchin School in New Orleans, 1725: the first school of Louisiana. New Orleans: Archdiocesan School Board.