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The Claiborne Mansion

Liz Claiborne and the Claiborne Mansion

Liz Claiborne

If you grew up between the mid-1970s to mid-2000s in America, you probably know the name Liz Claiborne. The fashion icon launched her namesake company in 1976, and a decade later she became the first woman to found and helm a Fortune 500 company; by 1988, she controlled a third of the U.S. market for upscale women’s sportswear.

So how is Liz Claiborne connected to the Claiborne Mansion? Her grandfather, Fernand Francois Claiborne, grew up here.

Fernand’s father (and Liz’s great great grandfather), William C. C. Claiborne, Jr., built Claiborne Mansion in 1859 and raised his family here. Fernand, the seventh son and the youngest of ten children, was around six years old when the family moved into the mansion, and he spent his childhood playing in the great room that ran the length of the attic and running through Washington Square Park.

Out of the ten children, only Fernand and two of his brothers married. Fernand and his wife, Marie Louise Villeré, went on to have a son named Omer — and in 1929 in Brussels, Belgium, Omer and his wife, Carolyn Louise Fenner, had a daughter they named Liz Claiborne.

Liz spent her first decade in Belgium, but in 1939 the family moved back to New Orleans, where they stayed through World War II. In her teens, she went back to Europe to study painting, but before she turned 20 she relocated to New York City, where she began her legendary six-decade career in fashion.

In 1988, Liz told the New York Times that her favorite street in New Orleans is St. Charles Avenue, located a few blocks southwest of the French Quarter:

”The architecture one is likely to see on the avenue, said Ms. Claiborne, is ‘like New Orleans, rather eclectic and catholic’ – all lintels, dormers, turrets and Greek columns.”
The New York Times

If you walk west on Royal Street, which is across from Claiborne Mansion on the opposite side of Washington Park, you’ll pass directly through the French Quarter and then find yourself on St. Charles.

We don’t know if Liz Claiborne ever visited Claiborne Mansion herself as the last official Claiborne resident died in 1915, but it sounds like she would have appreciated what Architectural Digest calls a “façade characterized by both Greek Revival and French Colonial elements—a wrought-iron balustrade along the second-level balcony, a pilaster-flanked entrance portico.”


Points of interest

• Did you know New Orleans has a Fashion Week every spring? If you plan on attending next year’s New Orleans Fashion Week and want a good conversation starter, book a night or two at the family mansion of one of the fashion world’s most successful names.

• The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) just concluded a well-reviewed fashion exhibition called “A Queen Within” that featured pieces by Alexander McQueen and other designers, but if you missed it, don’t worry! You can experience a jaw-dropping collection of mardi gras costumes at The Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture in the French Quarter year round.


Family history sources:




●      Plus historical photos and documents kept on location at the Claiborne Mansion— just ask Cleo about them the next time you visit.

Three reasons to book early for your 2019 trip

“There’s no place like New Orleans. It’s got the best food. It’s got the best music. It’s got the best people. It’s got the most fun stuff to do.”
— Harry Connick, Jr.

Spring 2019 Events

Any time is a good time to visit New Orleans, but the springtime is especially popular, because that’s when we have the best weather and the most fun stuff to do! Spring of 2019 is going to be even more packed with things than usual, so if you’re thinking of joining us for any of the festivities, you should already be making plans.

Here are three reasons why you should book early for your 2019 trip to New Orleans.

In 2019, Mardi Gras takes place in March instead of February.

Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”), New Orleans’ famous annual Carnival celebration, is typically observed in February (although “observe” seems like an understatement), but in 2019 Mardi Gras will happen on March 5. Celebrating closer to spring is good news in terms of weather, but it means the citywide revelry will dovetail into a densely packed spring calendar of musical, literary, and cultural events.  This also means lodging across the city will fill up fast, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to book a room.

JazzFest will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2019.

On a typical year, the week-long New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — aka JazzFest — can average nearly half a million attendees and more than 50 performances a day. But 2019 will be extra special, because it also happens to be the festival’s golden jubilee. This means you can expect more musicians, more excitement, and more music fans — and it also means you might want to book a room soon if you haven’t already.

the musical is coming to New Orleans in March 2019!

You’ve probably heard of the musical phenomenon Hamilton by now even if you aren’t a fan of show tunes (or American history). This hip-hop, historical dramatization of the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was an immediate hit when it opened in 2015, and the intentionally diverse cast “speak[s] to one of the musical’s greater themes — that our nation was founded on and fought for by people who, like many minorities today, felt they had little power under their government.”  Or as writer/composer and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda puts it, “This is a story about America then, told by America now.” The musical comes to New Orleans March 12-31, 2019, but you can listen to the full soundtrack now on YouTube.

The Claiborne Mansion earns Fodor’s Best Award from Fodor’s Travel


We’re proud to announce that Fodor’s, one of the world’s leading travel guides, has awarded the Claiborne Mansion a Fodor’s Best designation in “The 7 Best B&Bs in New Orleans” as well as   “The 7 Best Stays for Jazz Fest in New Orleans.”

Fodor’s has been around for 80 years and is one of the most trusted voices in the travel industry, so it means a lot to us that we’ve been recognized. According to Fodor’s, “while every hotel listed in a Fodor’s guide is deemed worthy of a traveler’s time, only those offering a truly distinctive experience are given the Fodor’s Best designation. The Fodor’s Best hotel recipients are the best of the best at providing a remarkable experience in their category” [emphasis ours].

Here are some of the reasons we’ve been named a top spot, according to Fodor’s editors and experts:

  • An “impeccably maintained,” “elegant Greek Revival mansion” “at rates you would be paying for a chain hotel with much less character.”
  • Located “in the heart of the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood,” “where walking the lively streets of music and colorful architecture is as fun as checking out some of the small, well-loved bistros, bars, and art galleries.”
  • Rooms that “maintain their original 1850s romance with understated, tasteful decor, canopy beds and soaring 14 foot ceilings.”
  • A “40 foot saltwater pool enclosed in a spacious brick courtyard, surrounded by gardens and citrus trees.”
  • An owner, Cleo, who is “quite a character” and “known for sitting with guests and entertaining with her own stories.”
  • Wonderful cats. (They didn’t quite put it that way, but we do!)

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, contact us to request a reservation.

The Claiborne Cats

Faubourg Marigny’s furriest literary residents

The Claiborne Cats

If you’re a lover of literature, you’ve probably heard of the Hemingway House, a mansion in Key West, Florida, where Ernest Hemingway and his family lived in the 1930s. It’s now a museum dedicated to the literary giant’s life, but it also happens to be the home to around 50 cats.

These aren’t stray cats. They’re considered permanent guests of the Hemingway House, in tribute to Hemingway’s beloved six-toed cat Snow White. In fact, many of these current “Hemingway Cats,” as they’re affectionately called, are polydactyl, meaning like their predecessor they have six toes instead of four or five. At least some of them are assumed to be direct descendants of Snow White.

Which brings us to this line in a recent glowing review of the Claiborne Mansion: “The courtyard is quite a peaceful oasis, but it might bother some guests that the gardens and grounds here are often shared with stray cats.”

It might bother some guests? We hope not!

The Claiborne Mansion is a pet friendly establishment, and the mansion’s owner Cleo has always embraced the rich literary history of New Orleans, which at various times has been host to treasured authors like Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and John Kennedy Toole. When Cleo noticed that some of the neighborhood’s “free agent” cats were polydactyl, it seemed only fitting and in the proper literary spirit of things to christen them the Claiborne Cats, and welcome them to the mansion grounds as unofficial guests.

In practical terms, that means she’s had them vaccinated and spayed or neutered, so that they stay healthy and don’t contribute to a feral cat population, and that she cares for them and feeds them as if they were her own.

Hopefully you’ll love them, if you notice them at all. Maybe you’ll see in them some of the quirkiness and welcoming spirit of New Orleans.

And if it turns out you don’t like them, you may be comforted to know that the cats remain outside in the courtyard and typically steer clear of guests. If nothing else, you can take solace in the fact that at least you aren’t going to one of Japan’s cat islands any time soon.

Special note: If you know of stray cats in your own neighborhood, you might want to consider participating in the national “Trap Neuter Return (TNR)” program, a “humane approach to addressing community cat populations” that improves the health of cats while also reducing the overall population. Find out more at Alley Cat Allies. If you live in New Orleans, you can get started by attending a free TNR workshop.

Winter Art Blossoms

Prospect 4

During a time that can seem dreary in other parts of the country, New Orleans will be blossoming with more than it’s expected offerings of good food, fun, and general merriment. The Claiborne Mansion, along with our fellow New Orleanians, is thrilled to welcome back the 4th iteration of Prospect New Orleans!

Prospect 4 plants 17 distinct, short-term art installations throughout the City. This year’s theme, The Lotus Despite the Swamp speaks to New Orleans geographical realities and reminds us all that beauty is a regular and reoccurring aspect of our community.

Running from 11/18/17 through 2/25/18 we hope that you will be able to arrange a stay during this preeminent art experience that provides a truly unique way to take in the New Orleans area as we begin celebrating New Orleans at 300. Since 2007 Prospect New Orleans has been offered on a triennial basis and provides a compelling presentation of contemporary art. Plan to incorporate visits to as many sites as you are able! Visit for additional details and a complete listing of art by location.

The Saints are Marching!

Saints football

The 2017 football season is well under way and “Who Dat” fever is in the air! Whether playing home or away there is no place better to enjoy a Saints game than New Orleans. Local hot spots include Central Business District mega sports bar Manning’s, named for beloved former Saint Archie Manning, the Bywater’s neighborhood craft brewery Parleaux Beer Lab, and Tracey’s, an Irish Channel sports and po’ boy tradition. Each offer a unique take on game day with atmosphere and fans to spare!

If you have tickets to the game, plan to catch the streetcar just blocks away from the Claiborne Mansion. The most recent branch of the New Orleans streetcar system offers an easy and fun trip to and from the Mercedes Benz Super Dome. We would love to host you however you decide to spend game day, check out the remaining Saints schedule and plan you trip now. While we can’t guarantee a win, we are confident you will have a good time!

Take a break from #SIBA17 with these 5 New Orleans favorites

Fritzel's European Jazz Pub

This year the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) is hosting its industry trade show in New Orleans. This is just so-so news for book lovers, because the #SIBA17 Discovery Show is an industry event and not open to the general public. However, for #SIBA17 attendees, this is a great opportunity to get out and explore one of the best cities in the world in between those endless trade show panels.

You can find plenty of tourist-friendly guides to New Orleans out there, but often you’ll end up visiting the same destinations as every other visitor to the Big Easy. Here are five other locations that aren’t as well known to outsiders but are local favorites.


Hansen’s Sno-Bliz
New Orleans has enjoyed a long love affair with snow cones, and you’ll understand why after you visit this local family-owned favorite. Ernest and Susan Hansen opened Sno-Bliz in 1939 using Ernest’s invention—the first electric ice-shaving machine—and Susan’s secret homemade syrup recipes. Nearly 80 years later, and under the ownership of their granddaughter Ashley, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is still serving the perfect “snoball.”

4801 Tchoupitoulas St


This fourth-generation Italian family restaurant at 3800 Canal Street started life as a grocery store for New Orlean’s Italian residents in 1898, then became a pool hall that served sandwiches for a short while. In 1932 it was turned into a restaurant and it’s been serving authentic Italian food with a New Orleans flair ever since—even after being flooded by Katrina. If you want to try Creole classics like turtle soup or homemade seafood gumbo, this is the place to go.

3800 Canal Street


Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub (pictured above)
If you’re in the mood to hear some traditional New Orleans jazz in a classic historical setting, pay a visit to Fritzel’s, which bills itself as “the oldest operating jazz club in New Orleans.” This Bourbon Street destination has been delighting jazz lovers since it opened in 1969, although the building itself was built in 1831.

733 Bourbon Street


Chris Rose Walking Tour
You know those themed tours of downtown that cities love to sell to tourists? Imagine that with all the gimmicks stripped out and replaced with a loud, passionate lover of New Orleans and its enormous musical heritage. Rose is a former journalist with an insider’s knowledge of the city and its history, and over the course of a couple of hours he’ll have you loving the Big Easy as much as he does.

For booking info, email


Faubourg Wines
This beloved neighborhood wine shop hidden away in the Marigny neighborhood is famous among locals for its friendly setting, good prices, and generous wine tasting events (complete with cheese platters). If you’re here for #SIBA17, you’ll just miss the weekly wine tasting which happens every Wednesday, but Faubourg has one of the best curated selections in the city, so this is the place to visit if you want to bring a bottle or two back home with you.

2805 St. Claude Avenue

Good Bones


“Good bones” despite being one of the most overused phrases when referring to old houses happens to be nonetheless accurate with The Claiborne Mansion. The house is well built, lovingly (and continually) renovated, and a beautiful piece of history that we love being able to share with you.

We thought you’d enjoy seeing a little behind-the-scenes glimpse of the house so we recently asked Richard Sexton to photograph the exposed rafters and typically off-limits areas of the attic. We discovered a few beams with what may be “carpenter’s marks” also known as “marriage marks” – Roman numerals or other symbols carved into rafters to match joints of timber framing. You can learn more about them at the Historic House Blog.

We’ll be sharing more photos and history of the house soon.

Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere

Creole World

Wonderful new book by Richard Sexton published by The Historic New Orleans Collection:

In Creole World, that old New Orleans greeting ” How’s your mama an’ nem” gains depth and resonance. We learn that “an nem” includes our cousins in Haiti (cozen nou an Ayiti), our uncles in Cartegena (nuestros tios), our aunts in Cuba, (nuestras tias), and a wealth of other friends and relations in Panama. By depicting these connections so beautifully in pictures and words, Richard Sexton has made the Creole world at once larger, smaller, and better.
—Lolis Eric Elie, writer for HBO’s Treme and coproducer/writer of Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

Purchase a copy and enjoy.

Kids Tour Too

Educational and entertaining tours of the French Quarter designed just for kids (6–13 years).

French Quartour Kids

For more information visit:


You can stay up-to-date with events around New Orleans at

And if you’re looking for information on the best food and restaurants in New Orleans, then visit The New Orleans Menu at

* Lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap) is something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure (such as getting a 13th doughnut when buying a dozen).