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History

GoNOLA Find: Doullut Steamboat Houses in Holy Cross

While the Garden District is full of beautiful old mansions, and the French Quarter offers plenty of charming architecture, two of the most interesting buildings in New Orleans are located in the Lower Ninth Ward. The famous “steamboat houses” were built in the early 20th century by the Doullut family, and stand at 400 and 503 Egania Street in the Holy Cross neighborhood.

The first house was built in 1905 by riverboat pilot Captain Milton P. Doullut. The second house was built in 1913 as a home for his son, Paul Doullut. The architecture of these two buildings is unique in that they were inspired by the steamboats that the Doulluts piloted down the Mississippi River, but they were also partially inspired by the Japanese exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. You can see the Japanese influence in the pagoda-style roofing.

This one-of-a-kind Doullut Steamboat House is located in the Holy Cross neighborhood. It was built in 1905 by Paul Doullut. He was a steamboat captain and wanted a house that resembled the boats he guided up and down the river. The house is also flood resistant, with the bottom floor being covered in ceramic. It survived the flooding of Hurricane Katrina and brought residents back to the devastated Holy Cross neighborhood (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

In 1977, both houses were designated as historic landmarks. The houses, which were built on the highest land in this neighborhood, close to the river, survived the flooding in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. In addition to being on high ground, these structures were uniquely prepared for rising waters. Flooding was a common concern when the homes were built, so the entire ground floor of each building is coated inside and out in ceramic tile. Each house can literally be hosed down after such a disaster.

The houses are now privately owned and not open for tours, but you can take a peek at their exteriors. Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours offers guided bicycle tours through the Lower 9th Ward, or you get there by car or cab.

Mallory Whitfield is an artist, speaker, and author based in New Orleans. In 2016, she was honored to be included in the 19th class of Gambit’s 40 Under 40, which salutes the brightest innovators, artists, and professionals in New Orleans. She currently hosts the Badass Creatives podcast, which features marketing and business advice for creatives, as well as interviews with a diverse range of handmade artists, performers, makers, and creative entrepreneurs. During Mardi Gras, you can usually find her parading with Noisician Coalition in Muses or with The 501st Legion in Tucks.

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