National Historic Landmarks in the French Quarter

The Hermann-Grima House on St. Louis Street, built in 1831, and the Gallier House on Royal Street, circa 1860, are two National Historic Landmarks, accredited museum properties, and treasures of the French Quarter. Our non-profit parent organization, The Woman’s Exchange, was established in 1881. Our legacy of preservation is notable and our contribution to the cultural economy significant.

Two New Orleans Historic Museums

In 1831 Samuel Hermann commissioned Virginia architect William Brand to build a 6,000-square-foot Federal-style mansion in the oldest section of New Orleans. The commodities broker saw his fortunes vanish in the 1837 cotton market crash, but his wealthy wife Emeranthe was able to save the family from financial ruin. The Hermanns sold the property to Felix Grima, an attorney, judge, and notary, in 1844. More than 60 enslaved workers also lived on the property until the end of the Civil War. Generations of Grimas occupied the house until 1924 when The Christian Woman’s Exchange purchased the building for use as a boarding house and shop. The mansion was opened as a museum in the late 1960s.

James Gallier Jr. was one of the most prominent architects of New Orleans in the mid-19th century. His design work found an enthusiastic audience of civic leaders, businessmen, and affluent families. In 1857, Gallier put his considerable talent to work designing a residence of his own. He and his wife, Aglae Villavaso, as well as their four young daughters moved into the Creole townhouse with four enslaved workers in 1860. Our story spans the heartbreaking era of a nation in crisis, freedom and opportunity – through the eyes of a hopeful young family and the enslaved servants who transitioned to lives of emancipation.

Many locals fondly recall childhood visits to the museums, particularly on school field trips. We continue this extremely valuable programming of service to the educational community and cherish this important part of our brand.

Today, we share more than a story of two houses and their furnishings. We tell of the city’s cultural diversity as we share the stories of all the people who lived at the Hermann-Grima and Gallier Houses — the enslaved workers whose lives played out in these properties, the free people of color who built the houses and lived as neighbors among European descendants  who made their fortunes in 19th Century New Orleans. We pride ourselves in telling the stories of why this globally significant city that produced a culture all its own was built and continues to rebuild.

 

The Woman’s Exchange

The Woman’s Exchange (TWE), owner and operator of the Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, was established in 1881 and is one of the oldest women-owned and operated nonprofit organizations in the South.