My aunt called to say that there was a historic home in the Garden District offering free tours. The Garden District is the Beverly Hills of this city in that it’s a separate district with its own police force – though I don’t see anyone filming “Garden District Cop” anytime soon. As opposed to the overt consumerism of Beverly Hills, the Garden District is steeped with the history and elegance of 1800’s architecture and culture. Local charities and non-profits sometimes offer ticketed walking tours as fundraisers and the William Freret designed house owned by the Women’s Opera Guild was opened as lagniappe (gift with purchase) to an extensive ticketed walking tour.
One of my two friends here, Lauren, a young woman who used to be married to my only other friend here, joined me for this misty grey Sunday adventure. In L.A., we made jokes about how no one walks anywhere. There’s even a song – Walking in L.A./Nobody walks in L.A./Walking in L.A./ Only a nobody walks in L.A. Here, the streets were downright crowded with walkers. Most were still dressed for church and clumped together as family or groups of friends. Throughout the neighborhood, women stood with brochures in the doorways of tour homes which were decorated for Christmas with live music emanating from within.
The Opera Guild’s home was quirky. A story in changing tastes and lifestyles throughout the last century and a half. The many chandeliers are stunning but I was most drawn in by the paintings by one of the daughters who lived in the house. An open house is always an invite to sneak a look into someone’s lifestyle but I saw the paintings as a scrapbook of the daughter’s world. The open fields and rolling river banks were once her view. But, as usual, the best part was the people we met. A man with long, thick grey hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing a purple linen jacket and chunky jewelry pulled us aside and gave us insight into cooking customs and the layout of the house before it was “modernized” by attaching the kitchen to the home. As we toured the gorgeous double parlour, an elegant woman in her 80’s wandered in to join another Opera Guild member and notify her, “Saints by two.” Go Saints!