New Orleans of the early 19th century was a veritable powerhouse of a city. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, new residents flocked in causing the population to swell in size until New Orleans was the third-most populous city in the country (after New York and Baltimore). By the 1830s, with a population that had doubled in just a few decades, New Orleans was the wealthiest city in the United States.
Samuel Hermann, born in Germany in 1777 or 1778, took advantage of the economic prosperity of New Orleans to become a successful and wealthy commodities broker dealing primarily in cotton. He and his wife, Marie Emeranthe Becnel, had six children (two from Marie’s first marriage) between them, and after moving around New Orleans for a number of years the family settled on St. Louis Street in 1823. Hermann-Grima House, as it’s known today, was built there by Samuel in 1831.
Hermann-Grima House, built in the Federal style with Creole sensibilities, is a perfect reflection of New Orleans during its boom years as a highly successful port city. The exquisitely furnished rooms with accurate period—and in many cases, family—objects reveal the wealth that could be found in the city, while the outbuildings and workspaces speak of the enslaved population. And with the only remaining original and intact stable in the French Quarter and one of the few remaining functional open-hearth kitchens in the state, Hermann-Grima House truly offers a step back in time to a bygone era.
Today, the house is owned together with the nearby Gallier House by The Woman’s Exchange, which was established in 1881 (then known as the Christian Woman’s Exchange) as the first association organized and chartered by and for women in the City of New Orleans. The houses are known as Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses and together represent life in New Orleans from the 1830s to the 1920s.