Tour this and six stunning private homes in the historic Garden District at PRC’s 47th annual Holiday Home Tour presented by McEnery Residential on December 10 & 11.
The main building at Louise S. McGehee School was originally one of the most lavish private homes in the Garden District. Designed in the Second Empire style, the house was built in 1872 for Bradish Johnson, a wealthy Louisiana sugar plantation and refinery owner who also owned a large distillery and considerable real estate in New York City.
Some references attribute the house’s design to architect James Freret, while others say it was the work of architect Lewis Reynolds. It was said to be constructed at a cost of $100,000 (about $2.2 million today) with “furnishings as lavish as the house itself.” The house was “the culmination of style, technology and every available luxury in its day,” according to a 2011 article in Preservation in Print.
The building has been part of the Louise S. McGehee School campus since 1929. The school, founded in 1912, has carefully preserved the architectural features over the years, including the fluted Corinthian columns, stained glass dome, rooftop ironwork, Mansard roof and elaborate moldings. A stunning spiral staircase rises at the rear end of the marble-floored entrance hall.
The school has a unique campus filled with 19th-century former residences, now renovated, restored and equipped with 21st-century technology. Students learn in buildings that once were a private mansion, a center hall cottage, two side hall residences, a carriage house and a mid-20th-century addition designed by renowned modernist architect Arthur Davis. Many of the former residences have operable, residential facades facing St. Charles Avenue, with the students accessing the buildings from a private courtyard at the back.
The school has worked with architect Harvey Burns of Jahncke & Burns to handle many of its renovations and restoration projects on the campus, which today houses students from toddlers to 12th grade.