General Beauregard Slept Here

December 02, 2011

On our last full day in New Orleans, we spent the morning touring and sketching at the Beauregard-Keyes House. Built in 1826 by a well-to-do auctioneer, it takes its name from its most famous residents, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, who lived there for some time during the mid-1860s, and author Frances Parkinson Keyes, an author who penned 51 books beginning in 1919.

During the tour, I confess I was much more interested in Mrs. Keyes than in General Beauregard, so most of the information I took away concerned her. Mrs. Keyes (pronounced to rhyme with “eyes”) rented the house in 1944 from a group of ladies who had saved the house from demolition in 1925. (They had tackled the house as a historical project because General Beauregard had lived there.) Mrs. Keyes eventually bought the house and restored both it and the formal garden, and turned the kitchen washhouse into her writing studio. For 25 years, she lived there during the winter months and wrote several of her books there, including the only one that I have read, Dinner at Antoine’s. She died there in 1970.

The house contains furniture belonging to General Beauregard and his family, as well as many items Mrs. Keyes collected throughout her life: dolls, fans, and veilleuses, described to us as nightlights, but originally used to keep a small portion of drink or semi-liquid food warm at nighttime, usually for an infant or sick person. I loved the veilleuses Mrs. Keyes collected and wanted to bring a similar one home as a souvenir, but the only ones sold in the museum gift shop were plain white and not particularly attractive. Something to look for in antiques stores, perhaps.

A veilleuse
 My favorite part of the tour was seeing Mrs. Keyes’ writing studio. (I love seeing other people’s creative spaces!) She wrote in longhand in a composition book, one of which was open on the desk. The light-filled space charmed me completely. Hmm, maybe I’d get more writing done if I had a studio like this?

Handwritten manuscript for The Chess Player
Following the house tour, we sketched in the formal garden. I always loved seeing everyone scatter to the different places that intrigued them for sketching purposes. Even when two people chose to sketch the same thing, the final products always came out looking different from each other—the “hand of the artist” in evidence.

Two sketchers at work
This trip just reinforced my love for New Orleans. Spending five days exploring different aspects of NOLA’s culture and history whetted my appetite for more. I want to go back!

All our sketchbooks. Mine is the one on the bottom left.
Have you ever visited someplace that captivated you? Were you ever able to return?

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  1. Lovely - I'd like a studio like that...a place to write, to muse - just need a drawing table! I love seeing all of the journals there together and what comes from the artists' eyes and hands!

  2. Nice wrap up, KJ!

    As to that studio, with the light filtering though the windows and the gorgeous courtyard just beyond....yes, I could handle that!

  3. I love Balboa Park in San Diego. I hope to get to sketch there someday now that I've learned how. Thanks for the "tour"!

  4. Elizabeth--My dream studio has both a beautiful desk for writing and researching AND a drawing table--or at least someplace to keep both my writing materials and my art materials. As it is now, I really have neither, and that explains why my house looks the way it does (at least partly)!

  5. Laure--It was such a cheery space, and comfortable. I loved it (as I'm sure you noticed).

  6. Timaree--I hope you get to go back and sketch there. That would make it all the more special to you.