Chances are if you have walked down any French Quarter street in the last few years you have seen my friend, Ray Hostetter. He might have the phone to his ear or a tool of some kind in hand, but he always has a smile and a “Hey there” for passersby. Now that may have been the extent of our association too, except for one thing (ok, two) I love construction, reconstruction, building, renovating, decorating. Whatever name you put on it, the creative process is fascinating to me. Oh, and the second thing – I’m just nosy.
In my “ratting” around the Quarter, I had seen Ray at times working on a particularly beautiful place on the corner of Dauphine and Orleans. I could see the intensive work being done to the outside, but it was just killing me to know what they were doing to the inside. Come on, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. I saw the nose smudges on the windows. (Oops, sorry. I guess those were mine.) Lo and behold, on this particular day a couple of years ago the door was wide open, so um, what to do, what to do? Exactly, I went in.
Ray grew up in the construction business and was working in California until a series of events changed life as he knew it. Work got scarce in big CA, Katrina hit New Orleans, a family member living in New Orleans said “Bring the wife and new baby over and work here”. After doing a couple of flood houses in mid city and a 20 unit apartment complex Ray was introduced to the owner of the Orleans Avenue project, who we will call Mr. C. It is interesting how one thing leads to another. Mr. C. had rented a Bourbon Street balcony one Mardi Gras from Ray’s relative years ago and they became friends.
While into the Orleans Avenue project, Mr. C. decided to acquire the property at 435 Bourbon and turn it from a t-shirt shop into a bar. (Incidentally, this was the same place that he had rented all those Mardi Gras’ ago.) The whole bottom floor had to be taken out for the new electrical so while Ray was digging trenches between floor joices he made a discovery, an 1850 bottle of “Dr. J. Hostetter Stomach Bitters”. This concoction of vitamins and herbs and 94% alcohol was sold to the Union army by train car from Pennsylvania during the first prohibition. Cool, huh? But it gets better. Did you notice that Dr. J and Ray share the same last name? After doing a little research Ray found he and Dr. J were actually related. That was when it all made sense for Ray, “I am in the right place doing what I am supposed to be doing.”
The Orleans Avenue project had discoveries of its’ own. The first came when removing walls, Ray came upon the initials A.H. (another relative??) carved in a board with the date 1901. Attached was a 1901 silver coin which today is worth $6,000.00. These old French Quarter buildings are treasure troves and that is exactly what Ray thought when he uncovered the next surprise. Extensive work was being done on the previously lathe and plastered walls. Mr. C wanted the old brick walls exposed, cleaned and repointed. In the process it was noticed that there was a definite brick archway visible just above floor level in the downstairs bedroom.
At this point, you know a vision of Lafitte’s treasure was dancing in Ray’s head. The old wood plank floors were pulled out and what looked like a tunnel opening was uncovered several feet under the existing floor. Alas, the only thing inside was years upon years of mud and muck, no treasure. But could it have been a bootleggers’ tunnel from Orleans Avenue to St. Peter and Dauphine, where for years the Tunnel Bar sat on the corner? Research seems to lean more toward what was called a “cabinét”, something like a root cellar and not a tunnel at all. Rather than cover up this historic piece of architecture, lightning and special glass flooring was installed to show it off. It is breathtakingly beautiful, just like the rest of the three story structure and “slave quarters” included in this compound.
Restoring this exquisite showplace to the splendor it deserves was a demanding, detailed project three years in the making and is today a phenomenal piece of workmanship. A credit to a man who truly loves what he does. The mastery of his craft is so obvious in even the smallest detail. Bo might know sports, but Ray definitely knows renovation. You rock Ray!
By Sharon Denise Talbot
*Stay tuned for more Renovation Reports with Ray.
i am going on a vacation with my friends to new orleans. what is there to do in the french quarter for 16 year old kids?
Teenagers go down to Bourbon to see and to be seen…
When i was in high school, my friends and i used to just walk up and down the street looking at all the sights and hoping to find guys to talk to us. (In retrospect, this sounds like a terrible idea but at the time, that’s how it was.)
Anyway, i know it sounds lame just walking up and down the street, but trust me it can be an adventure.
Please be careful though. Stick together for one! And while its more than fine to TALK to interesting people you meet- please don’t consider going off anyplace with any of them. Don’t try to get someone to buy you alcohol, don’t expose your body in anyway. And basically just use good old fashioned common sense.
Hope you have fun!
any attractions there? historical places , any other architectural magnificent buildings that can be more interesting
hi there,only a link for you with attractions, and a map for directions..
Lee heads to New Orleans and the craziness ensues on Bourbon Street!
Duration : 0:8:37
There is so much trash in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What will the survivors and residents do with all of the flooded cars, furnature, houses, and junk?
Most of the debris from the houses (furniture, wood, etc) will wind up being landfilled. They have all of the major hauling companies involved in the cleanup efforts. Where it is economical they will recycle as much as possible. Most of the metals and recoverable/reusable things will get handled that way because they have value to all the people involved.
Hope this helps!
I’ll be going down there in March and im looking for things to do while my rents are out doing whatever.
Any Clubs, attractions, anything for the under 18 crowd
Things a teenager can do in New Orleans:
Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival are world famous events, but New Orleans hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year: www.nola.com/festivals
The Saint Charles Streetcar is the oldest continuously operating street railway in the world and is a "tourist attraction" in its own right. It is part of the public transit system, as are the Canal Street and Riverfront streetcar lines: www.norta.com
Wander around the French Quarter, enjoy the architecture, watch the street entertainers (do tip), and visit some of the historic buildings that have been turned into museums (go to www.frenchquarter.com and click on Historic Attractions).
Assuming the weather is good, you can collect a sandwich lunch and eat in the riverfront park (watch the shipping) or in Jackson Square (a very nice park).
The Riverwalk shopping center has an air-conditioned food court with dining overlooking the river (www.riverwalkmarketplace.com). The Canal Place shopping center is in the French Quarter and has a cinema and higher-end shopping (Saks 5th Avenue, Brooks Brothers, etc.). Magazine Street is a miles-long shopping district: www.magazinestreet.com
The lobby for the Westin Canal Place Hotel is on the 11th floor and overlooks the French Quarter. It is a great place for an afternoon drink/snack:(www.westin.com).
Cafe du Monde is in the French Quarter and you shouldn’t miss having cafe au lait & beignets (www.cafedumonde.com). Another great coffee shop is the Croissant d’Or (at 615 Ursulines Street), which is open from 7:00am to 2:00pm and has food in addition to pastry.
The Palm Court restaurant is very nice, has moderate prices, and offers traditional live jazz starting at 8:00pm: 1204 Decatur Street, tel 504-525-0200 (reservations are important and they are not open every day). The Palm Court is closed from about July 25th to about September 25th each year.
Maximo’s Italian Grill has great food and atmosphere: 1117 Decatur Street in the French Quarter, (504) 586-8883.
All of the famous restaurants (Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, etc.) have reopened. The Pelican Club (on Exchange Alley in the FQ) is not as well known but is the same type experience. Reservations are a good idea, and probably essential on weekends. Tujaques Restaurant (823 Decatur Street) is very traditional and has moderate prices: www.tujaguesrestaurant.com
Cafe Degas is a very French restaurant near City Park at 3127 Esplanade – which is not within walking distance of downtown (5 to 10 minutes by taxi). They are closed on Mondays & Tuesdays (504-945-5635).
The Napoleon House restaurant is at 500 Chartres Street in the FQ, and has a menu of great local dishes: www.napoleonhouse.com
Preservation Hall has traditional live Jazz, and doesn’t serve alcohol so all ages are welcome: www.preservationhall.com
New Orleans has ballet, opera, a symphony orchestra, and theatre:
There is a free ferry across the Mississippi at the "foot" of Canal Street. It is a short trip but like a harbor cruise w/o a guide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/canal_street_ferry
The Aquarium, Audubon Zoo, and the new Insectarium are world-class attractions (www.auduboninstitute.org) and you should see them if you can. The Zoo is several miles from downtown. You can drive to the Zoo (which has free parking) or take public transit from the French Quarter.
The Louisiana State Museum is in the French Quarter: http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/ New Orleans is also home to a number of other museums, such as the National World War II Museum (www.ddaymuseum.org) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (www.noma.org). Both can be reached by public transit: The WWII museum is in the central business district but a long walk from the French Quarter. NOMA is not within walking distance of downtown but has free parking. Go to www.neworleansmuseums.com for info on more museums.
New Orleans City Park has a variety of attractions + free parking. (www.neworleanscitypark.com).
Check www.frenchquarter.com and http://www.nola.com/visitor/ for ideas about other things to do.
Hope you have a great time!