||This plan shows what we believe to be the location of the Cordeviolle
and Lacroix store at 150 Chartres Street. On the ground plan, the store is shown as the second building
from the uptown corner of Chartres and Jefferson (now Wilkinson) Streets. In the elevation drawing, it is the
partially-visible structure at the far right. The original plan is housed at the New Orleans Notarial
|Part I: WHO WAS
||François Lacroix was, according to this copy of his 1832 marriage certificate, a native of Cuba, born to
parents who almost certainly had moved to that island from St. Domingue during the slave insurrection of
the late 18th-early 19th centuries.
was an unwilling taxpayer at best. This Internal Revenue "late notice" from 1868 -- for $1039.50 -- suggests
an individual of considerable wealth, which Lacroix most certainly was.
||François Lacroix was mentally capable of caring for himself and his interests, even in his old age.
Allée Pierre Dumas claimed otherwise in this 1874 petition for interdiction. Dumas later discontinued
his suit. Judge A. L. Tissot of the Second District Court dismissed another interdiction proceeding in
||François Lacroix was a slave owner. This 1877 testimony by his sister-in-law names seven men and
women as Lacroix's slaves. It was not uncommon for free men of color in New Orleans to belong to the
slave holding class.
||François Lacroix was a father and a grandfather. This testimony by Mrs. Elizabeth Garcia describes his
relationship with the family of his son Victor. It also refers to Victor's death in the New Orleans riot of June
30, 1866 at the Mechanics' Institute on Baronne Street.
|François Lacroix was a philanthropist. The documents displayed here show that he was an incorporator
of both the Société Pour L'education des Orphelins des Indigenes de la 3me District and
La Société de la Sainte Famille. The first-named organization worked to bring to fruition
the school for orphans provided for by Marie Couvent in her last will and testament. For many years it
operated a school for orphans at the corner of Burgundy and Touro Streets in the Faubourg Marigny. The
latter association, founded by Henriette Delille, also cared for needy New Orleanians and educated young
women. The Sisters of the Holy Family continue their good works in the twenty-first century.
||François Lacroix financed construction of the Hospice of the Holy Family, a facility operated by the
Sisters of the Holy Family for the care of the poor, on St. Bernard Avenue. This detail from the Robinson
Atlas of 1883 shows the location (at the green dot) of the building.
||François Lacroix was ever ready to find new sources of revenue. In 1871 he joined with his son Edgar
and another man in applying for a license to sell Louisiana Lottery Company tickets from a stand they
operated near the French Market.
||François Lacroix was not a man to live by bread alone. He did purchase a good deal of bread from the
baker Jean Mandere, but he also enjoyed a variety of wines, liqueurs, and other delicacies from the grocery
store founded by his brother Julien and continued in operation by Julien's sons.
||François Lacroix was an African American. This testimony from fellow businessman and
philanthropist Thomy Lafon suggests that Lacroix might easily have passed for white, but that he did indeed
live as a "colored" man -- a free man of color. John R. Clay, another black businessman of the day, also
testified to the accuracy of Lafon's characterization.
||François Lacroix was only human. As he grew old, he fell victim to the usual infirmities of the elderly. His
succession includes a number of bills for medicines and for physician services, including this final statement
from Doctor Auguste Capdevielle.
||François Lacroix died of congestion of the brain on April 15, 1876. He died at 14 Frenchmen Street in
home of his late brother. This detail from the Robinson Atlas of 1883 shows the location (at the green dot)
of the building in the Faubourg Marigny.
||François Lacroix was buried soon thereafter in St. Louis Cemetery #2. Judging from the
undertaker's bill, shown here, he went out in proper style.
|Part II: FRANÇOIS
LACROIX WAS A TAILOR
|He started out in business as a partner in the firm of Cordeviolle and
Lacroix at 141 Chartres Street. Etienne Cordeviolle, also a free man of color (though of Italian ancestry),
operated a dry good store for several years before joining together with Lacroix. By 1832 the partners had
relocated their business to 150 Chartres.
||By 1838 Cordeviolle and Lacroix were in operation at 123
remained at that location throughout the remainder of their partnership. This billhead, used for business at
the new location, proudly proclaimed that the firm had "The most elegant and fashionable articles
pertaining to the Gentleman's Wardrobe, Imported, And constantly on hand."
||This elaborate billhead was produced for Cordeviolle and Lacroix by a
printing house in Paris.
||This simple billhead was used by Cordeviolle and Lacroix during their
years at 150 Chartres. Apparently they took a supply of the forms with them to the new store up the street
since this one is dated 1842.
|The partnership appears to have ended by 1849 for the city directory of
that year lists François Lacroix on his own at the 123 Chartres Street address.
||The 1853 directory was the first to list François Lacroix's new
business address at 23 St. Charles. The directory identifies him as a merchant tailor, established in 1817,
and an "importer of French cloth, fancy casimere, and the best and most extensive assortment of clothing
of every description, made in Paris, by the first fashionable tailors, and an elegant variety of gloves, cravats,
|This detail from the Robinson Atlas of 1883 shows the location (at the
green dot) of Francois Lacroix's store on St. Charles.
||This building at 21 St. Charles stood immediately adjacent to
François Lacroix's store. The two
structures were probably identical, belonging to a three-store row designed by James Gallier, Sr., and
erected in 1844. This print was made by photographer Betsy Swanson from the original drawing in Book
27A at the New Orleans Notarial Archives.
||François Lacroix's advertisement in the Crescent City Business
Directory for 1858-1859 reaffirms the
quality status of his clothing establishment.
This letter to François Lacroix from a Parisian clothier shows that Etienne Cordeviolle was in France
by August, 1849. It also suggests that the two former partners continued a business relationship across two
continents. Cordeviolle died in Paris on September 19, 1868. His succession record, largely in French and
Italian, should be consulted by anyone interested in the story of François Lacroix and Cordeviolle and
Even after his removal to France, Etienne Cordeviolle retained ownership of the building on the corner of
St. Charles and Common, just next door to Lacroix's store. This 1866 memorandum indicates that the
property was quite lucrative, as one would expect of a building located across the street from the grand St.
Charles Hotel. It is not clear from the document, however, if it was Lacroix who sold the property to Etienne
Cordeviolle in the first place.
||This document provides insight into the difficulties facing Cordeviolle
and Lacroix, and other New Orleans
merchants, in the wake of the Panic of 1837. Norbert Rillieux, the brilliant Creole engineer, was a customer
whose bad fortune after the financial collapse was a source of ongoing concern for the tailoring partnership
as it sought to make good the money owed it.
||Cordeviolle and Lacroix were also victimized by the ordinary financial
problems that plagued businessmen in New Orleans. This promissory note was not paid on time, forcing
the partners to institute legal proceedings to collect the amount due them.
||E. D. White (a local contractor, not the future Chief Justice) was a
customer of François Lacroix's store on St. Charles. Note on the bill that Lacroix made a deduction
from White's balance due to take into account paving that the engineer had undertaken for the Society of
the Holy Family on St. Bernard Avenue.
||This detail from the Robinson Atlas of 1883 shows the location (at the
green dot) of the Cordeviolle and Lacroix's store at 123 Chartres Street. The site is now occupied by the
Omni Royal Orleans hotel. For the location of the earlier store at 150 Chartres, see the main title panel for
||François Lacroix was no longer in the clothing business by 1873.
As this bill shows, he had to buy his drawers and shirts from a new store in the Vieux Carre.
|Part III: FRANÇOIS
A NEW ORLEANS REAL ESTATE TYCOON
|He bought and sold property, managed buildings that he owned, and
collected rents. The documents displayed in this case provide a glimpse of what was involved in such an
occupation. They also give us a better idea of the vast number of properties owned by François
Lacroix during his lifetime.
||This sketch documents the appearance of one of Lacroix's buildings,
one located at the corner of Dumaine and Marais Streets.
||An example of a François Lacroix lease agreement. By its terms,
R. Condon agreed to pay Lacroix $300 annually for the brick building on Elysian Fields between Victory
(now Decatur) and Moreau (now Chartres) Streets.
||This bill identifies ten of Lacroix' former properties. Surveyor J. A.
d'Hemecourt's sketches of those buildings were probably used to provide visual documentation at the
auction sales whereby they were disposed of.
||Fences had to be built, this one for Lacroix's property on Craps (now
||Gas had to be paid for. This bill was for Lacroix's residence at 70
||Evictions had to be forced -- and injunctions against eviction fought -- in
the course of managing Lacroix's real estate holdings.
||Renters' complaints had to be heard and dealt with if one was to be a
success in the real estate business. In this case Mr. Lanaux's problems on Frenchmen Street appear to
have been serious. Lacroix's ultimate response may be hidden somewhere in his succession proceedings.
||Old buildings had to be kept attractive looking in order to be profitable.
This commercial structure in the 100 block of Decatur Street dates back to 1814. Lacroix was one of a
number of owners who had responsibility for maintaining the building over the years. In 1871, B. Simon
produced the lithograph displayed here.
||Privies had to be cleaned on a regular basis. This bill is for the one at
Hospice of the Holy Family on St. Bernard Avenue.
||This page is one of several required to list all of the properties owned by
François Lacroix's estate following his death in 1876.
||Rents had to be collected, even from one's sister-in-law.
||Rental properties had to be advertised. Lacroix had to order five
"House to Rent" cards to keep up with his vast holdings.
||Buildings had to be built and improved if properties were to be
These specifications suggest that Lacroix was quite resourceful in finding men to get needed jobs done for
||Sometimes properties had to be sold to pay off debts. This document
shows that Lacroix did what he had to in order to keep his head above water with the city and its tax
||Bills for water service had to be paid.