Truly the most “French” cosmopolitan city outside France is New Orleans. One of the liveliest and loveliest neighborhoods in New Orleans is the Esplanade Ridge near Bayou St. John and City Park. It’s a popular place for walking, kayaking, and checking out small coffee shops and cafés.
On tree-lined Esplanade Avenue, you will eventually come across the statue of a ballerina in front of a house bearing both the French and American flags. It’s called Degas House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a French landmark, Degas House was the home and studio of French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas from October 1872 to March 1873 while visiting his maternal relatives, the Musson family.
Degas House is among the French Ministry of Culture’s Maisons des Illustres or Houses of the Illustrious network. This network is comprised of 236 historic houses owned and/or occupied by distinguished French citizens and historical figures and include the houses of Napoleon, Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Louis Braille, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Cezanne, Jules Verne, Albert Schweitzer, and Victor Hugo, plus many more legendary French authors, artists, philosophers, and political leaders.
Today, carefully restored and maintained, Degas House is the only home for the artist open to the public. It serves as a museum where tours and talks are led by Degas’ great grandnieces, Micey Moyer and Joanie Prados.
Degas House is also a bed and breakfast and popular wedding venue. The museum houses the artist’s bedroom and studio, as well as a timeline of his life. Weekend brunch is served, usually outside on the garden patio. Recommended dishes include the Creole omelet and the bananas foster pain perdu served with your beverage choice of a Cajun Bloody Mary, Mimosa, or sparkling wine.
David Villarubia, the proprietor of Degas house, is a native New Orleanian who grew up in the Esplanade Ridge. He acquired Degas House after a long career working as a pilot for Delta Air Lines. During his many stopovers in Paris, he would visit museums and take day trips to Monet’s Giverny, which inspired his vision to preserve Degas House and turn it into a museum and foundation.
Villarubia enjoys sharing stories about the artist and the works he created while in residence at the home of his New Orleans family. Listen to this edition of The Connected Table Live to learn more.