While New Orleans was colonized by the French, it didn’t reach its apogee of wealth until the arrival of sugar cultivation in the early 1800s. A combination of joining the United States (via the Louisiana Purchase), getting into the business of sugar production, and then being the sole provider of that “white gold” led to the city’s wealth. During that time, scores of Americans arrived, seeking fortune. Those who succeeded built houses mansions, really in the developing American sector. The Columns was built for Simon Hernsheim, owner of Hernsheim Brothers and Co., the largest manufacturer of cigars in the United States in the late nineteenth century. The house is a well-preserved piece of nineteenth-century grandeur and was the set for the film Pretty Baby, a terrible movie about the prostitutes of Storyville and E.J. Bellocq, who photographed them
Drinking at the Columns is a really sweet deal. For the price of a drink you get to spend an hour or more in the middle of nineteenth-century splendor.
If the Victorian lounge is crowded (and frankly, it often is), you can take your drink into the adjoining parlors, which often feature live music. The Columns is a favorite bar of Tulane law students. When you tire of discussions of constitutional law, head to the front porch, snag a table with a view of lovely St. Charles Avenue. Watch the streetcars come trundling by and pretend for a moment you are Mr. Hernsheim. Hell, go ahead and light a cigar. You are outside, after all.