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January 21, 2010 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Where can I learn about the history of the house we're soon to own in New Orleans?

So luazinha and I are in the process of buying a house in New Orleans (don't worry, it's on high ground; the neighborhood didn't flood during Katrina). It's a pre-1920s house, so it has a lot of history to it. What are the best resources to help me find out as much as I can about its history?
posted by umbĂș to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Will you receive the property abstract when you close on the property? My boyfriend received this for his ca. 1900 house here in Iowa. It details all changes to the property and additions to the house since that point, it even details the property since before the house was built. He keeps it in a safe deposit box, but it was neat to look at when he first purchased the home.
posted by sararah at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2010

You could start here. It's run by the civil clerk office, in the amoco building on poydras.
posted by gordie at 2:37 PM on January 21, 2010

Clerk of Civil Court, rather.
posted by gordie at 2:37 PM on January 21, 2010

Best answer: Also, and I mean this in all seriousness, though it may not be up your alley: find a nearby neighborhood bar and get to know an old guy. As you probably know, even after katrina, there isn't a whole lot of turnover in some of these old neighborhoods, particularly on the high ground.

At the uptown house I used to live in (near riverbend) in a local dive down the street I met an old fellow who had lived around the corner his entire life, and knew everyone that had lived in my house since he was able to crawl. He also knew the neighborhood like the back of his smoke stained hand: what cars they drove in the 1970s, who got in trouble with the police and got sent up to Angola, who got killed falling off the balcony while replacing railing, who used to hang out on my front porch. I mean everything.

Every time I run into him, which is every time I enter that bar, he is there, and he will tell me another story about that neighborhood and often about my old house. Are half of them true? I have no idea, though on the occasions when a couple of his peers join him they will usually not only verify but expound, or at the least tell me he is full of shit. Regardless, he loves telling stories, and he is the most fascinating source of local history I have ever encountered, and folks around here love telling stories.

So that might be worth a try.
posted by gordie at 4:51 PM on January 21, 2010

Actually, the New Orleans library has a "how to" research page for this exact situation.

You should probably begin by running a Chain of Title search for the property. In NOLA you do it at the office of the Registrar of Conveyances. The library has a set of instructions and directions. This will give you a good idea of who has owned the property over time (and sometimes you can figure out things like when buildings were erected by looking at the dollar amount for the sale). You can then use the other special collections/archives at the library in order to find out more about the owners themselves in newspapers, etc. Once you figure out who has owned the property, you can also use the library to find old telephone books, as they can sometimes give you more information about the owners/occupants. They sometimes listed professions, for example.

I also recommend looking through the Sanborn fire insurance maps, which can give you a sense of how the property has been utilized over time. (You can see the indexes/base maps at that link, but you need a Louisiana library card to see the actual maps online.)

Have fun! Let us know what you find out!
posted by gemmy at 5:03 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great advice and practical links. Thank you so much.
posted by umbĂș at 8:27 PM on January 21, 2010

That's a great link Gemmy! It only took me about 5 minutes to find my house on the 1909 Sanborn map! Let us know how your research goes, Umbu, it'll inspire me to look into the history of my house (in the Carrollton neighborhood).
posted by artychoke at 8:54 PM on January 21, 2010

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