The Old Spanish Custom House on Bayou St John is for Sale to the Highest Bidder!

On February 10th, The Spanish Custom House, the oldest residence on Bayou St. John will be sold at auction to the highest bidder and there is no minimum asking price. The house was constructed around 1784 and has been privately owned ever since.


Currently owned by the De Matteo family, they are auctioning it through the Neal Auction Company in hopes that "the right person gets the house-a Brad Pitt type or a historian type," according to Remi De Matteo.

This is a great opportunity for someone who is truly sensitive to the value and importance of preserving our heritage to own and restore an architectural treasure. Remi DeMatteo says, "This could truly be one of the jewels of the city.", and he is right.

Built as a residence in 1794, an inscription on a brick on a chimney in the attic attests to this fact, the house retains most of its original details. Located in an area that was at the time on the outskirts of the city, it was never actually a custom house.  It has always been lovingly maintained as a private residence.large_customhouse

The original owners who built the house were Santiago Llorens and his wife Marie Baudin . They surrounded their house with extensive gardens consisting of many varieties of fruit trees,and they used the surrounding property mainly to raise livestock.


Santiago and Marie constructed their home utilizing Creole building design  which was typical for the times. Thus it was constructed of four rooms, two upstairs and two on the lower level. Since it was a fact of life that New Orleans was susceptible to flooding, houses were built with the living quarters raised up to the second level with a brick basement below. The rooms on the ground floor were service rooms used for storage and plantation offices. The rooms on the second floor availed themselves of the cooling breezes since the top floor was surrounded by deep, shade-providing galleries which were accessed by tall french doors.


These wide collonaded galleries not only added beauty to the house, they were also used as outdoor rooms, with ladies sewing or reading, children playing and meals served since the sweltering climate in tropical New Orleans made being indoors quite uncomfortable during the day and early evening. In a testament to how effective Creole building techniques are, the home still doesn't have air conditioning.



This is the view of Bayou St. John from the gallery. Who could resist this?

The house was also built using long standing Creole building techniques. The ground floor is constructed of brick which has been plastered, and the second level, which is reached by means of an outdoor stairway consists of "briquette entre poteaux" or brick between posts and covered with wood siding. The galleries are supported by simple turned wooden posts which support the double pitched hipped roof.


In 1927, the owner at the time Helen Pitkin Schertz had made a major addition to the house which blends well with the original style. It's most outstanding feature being floor to ceiling windows and a massive pair of cast iron gates which are used as entrance doors.



The wrought iron doors as they appear today from the outside.

sun room

The property also includes an original outbuilding which was at one time slave quarters.


Go here to see some wonderful old photos set to music of this beautiful house.

The house has been on the market since before Hurricane Katrina and its original asking price was $1.95 million. The 2nd district assessor's office values the home at $330,000, but it is truly worth a lot more.

Preservationists are hoping that this amazing piece of our New Orleans history will be embraced by someone who will treat it with the loving care it deserves.

For more information, please click here.

To read more about the sale through Neal Auction click here.


I am the owner of Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans where we create beautiful custom lighting. This blog is my love letter to the unique people, places and happenings which make New Orleans the amazing place it is.

Please visit my website to learn more about my lighting and our fabulous shop on Magazine Street.

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