Wandering down Chartres Street in the French Quarter, one may find themselves on the other side of a gatehouse of a beautiful walled-in compound. Within these historic walls is the Old Ursuline Convent — the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley and the treasure of the archdiocese. This building has survived the entire history of the United States and has been the home to an integral part of the life of the Catholic Church in New Orleans. On the second floor, 250 years of history is safely archived. The architectural qualities of the building are timeless, from the manicured garden entrance to the interior cypress staircase and the original oil paintings of the city’s Archbishops. The full history can be experienced by attending a guided, informative tour of the gardens, St. Mary’s attached church (1845), and the first floor of the convent. The Convent is located at 1100 Chartres Street and is open for self guided tours Monday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and can accommodate large group reservations.
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Interviewer: You know they say buildings tell a story. If there was one
overall story that this building tells, what is that story about New
Emilie Leaumas: Survival. The Ursuline Convent or, as we also call it, the
Old Ursuline Convent Museum is the oldest building in the Mississippi
Valley. The Ursuline Sisters arrived here in the city in 1727. The city is
not 10 years old yet. I mean this building is a progression of almost 300
years and it tells a significant story of what was going on in the city.
Each person that walks into here is going to have a different experience.
Someone may have an experience of an architectural feeling. Another person
might be walking in and feeling religion. Whatever they get, they’re going
to be connected in some sort of a way to history. When the visitor leaves
here, I want them to feel like, “Wow, we just stepped back into a living
building, that has survived all of these things that were going on in the
city. That was a really neat place to visit.”