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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Absinthe Room: 1906

Absinthe Room: 1906

New Orleans circa 1906. "Old Absinthe House -- the bar." No obvious patrons except for a number of barflies. Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.

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Thank you Evelyn Wood

When I first read the title of this photo, I read it as "Abstinence House." I thought to myself, if a fellow can resist temptation in here, he is cured!

Bourbon Street Beat

Why, Cal Calhoun, Rex Randolph and Kenny Madison had their offices just above this place. The lovely Melody Lee Mercer was their secretary/Girl Friday. Last I heard, Rex had moved to L.A., out on the strip and Kenny was on a houseboat in Miami. Cal, never heard of him again, probably still sippin' absinthe.

That Panel

Could it be an annunciator panel of some sort to signal that someone in another area has runout of libation and requires a refill?


When I was a child there was a supermarket in Brooklyn called Packers that had sawdust on the floor throughout.
You see sawdust here. You see it in old photos of butcher shops. Even the Southern California restaurant chain Chris and Pitts had sawdust covered floors in its early days.

The sawdust was taken away from Packers in the mid 1960's, supposedly because it was considered a fire hazard. I do not know when Chris and Pitts got rid of theirs, but none of the surviving outlets have any sawdust on their floors any more.

Clearly people thought that putting sawdust on a floor did something good for them. I have no clue what they thought it did other than give fires a place to smolder, and patrons a slippy surface to slide and fall on.

[The sawdust soaked up various expectorants, tobacco juice chief among them, and no doubt other fluids. - Dave]

Sanded Floors

Odd Corners, by Isabel Anderson, 1917.

Round the Gulf

Another time our friends took us down Bourbon Street and stopped near the old "Absinthe House," which, as it was supposed to be closed on Sunday, we entered by the back door! It is one of the most picturesque houses in the world—there is nothing more interesting in Paris—with its sanded floors and little tables and the curious people who frequent it. No wonder the mixture of absinthe is so dangerous, for it makes you feel so well, yet you do not realize that you have taken anything at all.

Standard History of New Orleans, Louisiana, 1900.


Two drinks that are peculiar to New Orleans are the "roffignac," said to have been invented by the Marquis de Roffignac, one of the celebrities of the early days; and absinthe, which is also drunk in Paris. It is found at the old Absinthe House at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets, which was built in the year 1752, and which has been an absinthe house since 1826.

Beaux arts

I suspect, though I cannot confirm, that the artwork to the left of the clock behind the bar is a hand-colored print by the artist Vincent de Paredes. His prints of French royalty and the such were quite popular at the turn of the century, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see one turn up in an absinthe house in New Orleans.

Brassiere on the Camel?

I love how the top of the pillar looks nicely carved and artfully decorated and the bottom looks like an old telephone pole.

Some great fixtures in this room: stove, taps, lights, fans, etc. So much detail that just isn't appreciated any more.

Anybody know what the little cabinet(?) above the Red Raven Spirits sign is for? It's electric, whatever it is.

The Green Fairy has left the room.

Maybe she will appear after a few more sips.

Distilled since 1830.

Bottom shelf, second bottle from the left. "Old Crow" was General Grant's favorite whiskey. Also favored by Mark Twain and Henry Clay.

Faux Finish

That's a faux finish on the wooden bar. Most wood used in N.O. was cypress dressed up to look like another wood, usually oak. Mighty fine job of fauxing.

Absinthe fountains

Those tall counter fixtures with faucets appear to be rather hefty looking absinthe fountains. They slowly drip cold water into your glass of absinthe to enhance the color and flavor.

And it looks like there's sand or sawdust on the floor. Clearly it's there to make it easier to clean up the blood from absinthe-induced barfights, just like in the old gladiatorial arena.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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