Strolling by the riverside corner of St. Charles and Washington avenues, a tourist might peek through the expansive front windows of Dr. Michael Wheelis’ Garden District home and incorrectly assume that it has always been a residential property. However, as long-time New Orleans residents may remember, the building at 2800 St. Charles Ave. was the once the location of the popular P.A. Chopin florist shop.
 The florist shop, which was run by well-known horticulturist Peter Chopin, occupied the first floor of the building while the second floor contained a gift shop run by his wife, Elma Chopin. Mr. and Mrs. Chopin, along with their seven children, lived next door at 2808 St. Charles Ave.
 The October 31, 1918 edition of The Florist Review noted that Mr. Chopin’s florist shop was, “…one of the busiest retailers in the city. His store and show houses are always a great attraction to the passer-by.” 
 The youngest of Mr. Chopin’s children, Mrs. Adele Chopin Uddo, notes that by the time she was born in 1924, the florist shop was in full swing and included a greenhouse at the back of the property. While the greenhouse is no longer there, the building containing the florist shop remains.
 Reminiscent of its popularity with locals, Mrs. Uddo recalled that it was the tradition at one time for the wife of the King of Carnival to order two dozen roses from Chopin to be picked up by Rex as the parade rolled by the shop on Mardi Gras day.
 After Peter Chopin passed away in 1949, his son William carried on the business at the 2800 St. Charles Ave. location until 1999, when both the shop and the home next door were sold to a holding company. Shortly thereafter, a legal battle about the future of both properties ensued when the new owner planned to turn the former florist shop into a Starbucks and demolish the former Chopin family home next door.
 Fortunately, neighbors stepped in and both the shop and the home next door were saved. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Wheelis, an emergency room physician and hospital administrative consultant, moved in.
 Originally from north Louisiana, Dr. Wheelis is no stranger to historic properties. Prior to settling into the 2800 St. Charles Ave. property, he owned the Magnolia Hill Plantation, a Greek Revival planter’s cottage in Natchez, Miss., which was built in 1834.
 Dr. Wheelis, along with local interior designer Nan deMontluzin, have since turned the former floral shop into a warm and inviting home. After stepping from the street into a recessed entryway, guests walk through a large, glass front door capped by an arched transom that was once the entrance for customers to the florist shop. A wall was added just beyond the front door to create an open foyer where the retail counter and flower refrigeration were once located. 
 To the right of the foyer is Dr. Wheelis’ dining room, and to the left is his living room, which features a grand piano. Both of these rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the house. Once used to display flowers to customers passing by, these windows are now covered with plantation shutters which help provide privacy while allowing daylight to shower the room.
 Heart pine floors run throughout the home. The building’s original cypress columns were incorporated in the kitchen. Dr. Wheelis has displayed elements of his fun-loving personality throughout the home, including books, various menus from nearby Commander’s Palace, a certificate from a September 27, 1997 flight on the Concorde, and proclamations from various Mardi Gras krewes. Perhaps most unique is the Baptist church scene displayed on the doctor’s built-in bookshelves, which features a miniature pulpit, pews, a pastor figurine and church-goers, who surely enjoy living in the old Chopin florist as much as Dr. Wheelis.

Photos by Sara Essex Bradley