This article by member Sandy Pelphrey was recently published in The Weekly Villager .
The Beauregard-Keyes House
My recent trip to New Orleans for my latest doll convention also stirred up a new exciting find. I just had to write about it hoping you would all find it as fascinating as I did.
Our trip, as I reported to you last time, was educational as well as just fun. I enjoyed “Nawlins” as a tourist and as a doll collector. I tried to give you a few highlights of the trip but wanted to save this particular adventure for a story of its very own.
The Beauregard-Keyes House was recommended by the UFDC as a place a doll collector visiting the city would not want to miss. Our tour there proved this to be very true in my opinion. The Beauregard-Keyes House is located on 1113 Chartres Street in New Orleans and is one of the most romantic and fascinating old houses in the city. Built by Joseph Le Carpentier in 1826, it came into the ownership, seven years later, of John A. Merle, the consul of Switzerland. Old plans show that a formal garden was constructed about that time.
Through the years of its checkered history, the house had many owners and in 1865, when General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, noted Confederate leader who hailed from Louisiana returned to New Orleans, he lodged there for eighteen months.
The house sank into disrepair and by 1925 changed hands and its owner announced his intention to demolish it and erect a macaroni factory. How sad that would have been.
The fact that General Beauregard had once lived in the house aroused the interest of a group of patriotic ladies who raised funds and saved the house.
In 1944, Frances Parkinson Keyes, well known novelist, came to Louisiana, rented the house and eventually took it over from the ladies group and started restoring it. The formal garden was also reconstructed at this time. Mrs. Keyes made the house her winter home for a quarter of a century and wrote several of her books here, among them Dinner at Antoine’s, The Chess Players, and Blue Camellia. Many of the featured pieces in the home today belonged to the General and his family.
As I entered the home and took a step back in time I was in awe of the paintings of many of the family members hanging on the tall serene walls. A very calm, peaceful feeling followed me as I toured the living room with an original large doll house to gaze into and wondered how many little hands played with the massive toy and what laughter would have come from the room in so many years gone by.
The curator took his time to go into great detail about original furniture, paintings, books, and yes dolls! There are many dolls that belonged to the last owner Frances Parkinson Keyes. She was an avid doll collector and each room had at least a sampling if not shelves full of them. One such doll was a one of a kind Queen of England replica, one a Columbia doll, many brus, and porcelains of all types. A wonderful display of history, an author’s past, and dolls that she collected. What a treasure to top off our trip.
As we entered the back of the house and viewed the gorgeous gardens we were able to step into the small library where Mrs. Keyes wrote several of her books. There is a desk set up with some of her original manuscript for you to see. On one side of the room is a warm, inviting fire place surrounded by books galore and on the opposite side were French doors opening onto the gardens with her desk in between. It was enough to give one chills feeling so much history, romance, and art all in one small room. What a great experience, I loved it as did my fellow doll collectors that traveled with me that day.
Finally, for those not too familiar with Frances Parkinson Keyes work I would like to name just a few of her better known books, The Old Grey Homestead, Letters From a Senator’s Wife, All That Glitters, Dinner at Antoines, The Chess Players, and The Heritage, the very last novel Mrs. Keyes completed before her death in 1968.
The Beauregard-Keyes House since Mrs. Keyes’ death has been maintained by the Keyes Foundation. I recommend a visit to this beautiful home for visitors of New Orleans an enriching experience for doll collectors and history buffs alike.
For more information, visit the Beauregard-Keyes House website!