Sunday, July 17, 2011

More on the "Koepfer" House

Recently, I focused in on the corner property at 2101-03 Palmyra, at the corner of S. Johnson Street.  Well, a kindly anonymous friend of the blog has provided a treasure trove of additional information about the property and its 19th Century owner, John Koepfer.  Diving into the history behind the people associated with this one building helps to give a sense of the true loss that destruction of the historic neighborhood fabric has wrought.

As you can tell from the Koepfer surname, the Lower Mid-City area was once home to many Germans - it's no coincidence that Deutsches Haus sprang up in the area.  The information provided below about Mr. Koepfer seems to confirm that the building, used in part by Koepfer as a grocery store, was constructed at about the time of the United States Civil War, if not before.  This helps explain the many doors and the overall layout of the building.

At the time the Robinson Atlas was compiled, the section of Square 521 forming the corner of Palmyra and S. Johnson was owned by John Koepfer.

John Koepfer acquired the property from Nicholas Fitsimmons on June 3rd 1861 (COB 87/32). The 1861 New Orleans City Directory lists John Kopfer (sic) as a grocer at the corner of Johnson and Palmyra. Internal Revenue tax assessments provide further proof that John Koepfer operated a business at that location in the mid-1860s.  The 1865 tax rolls show him engaged in business in retail and as a dealer at the corner site, although he was charged more in taxes for "liquor" than anything else:

A native of Baden Baden, Germany, John Koepfer immigrated circa 1848, possibly as a result of the failed Revolutions of 1848, and settled in New Orleans. A politically-active Democrat, he was a charter member and officer of the original Johnson Rangers, a Third Ward political organization established in August 1868:

John Koepfer, Sr. died December 6th 1882, at the age of 57, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Both his obituary (Daily Picayune, 7 December 1882) and Greenwood Cemetery interment rolls confirm Koepfer's last residence was at the corner of Palmyra and South Johnson. Koepfer's widow continued the grocery business at that location until her death in early 1896.

Koepfer's son and widow died of Pneumonia within eight days of each other in March 1896 and were laid to rest in Greeenwood Cemetery. John Koepfer, Jr. had been a minor public servant, having served as a clerk in the city's conveyance office (NOCD 1889). At the time of his death, he was employed as Chief Clerk in the city's Personal Tax Bureau office (NOCD 1894).

The Koepfer grocery and residence at the corner of Palmyra and South Johnson was sold at auction in the summer of 1896 (Daily Picayune,12 July 1896 - see below), in conjunction with Regina Gunther Koepfer's succession (CDC 49,304). Regina Gunther Koepfer's estate sold the property to M.S. Estalote (COB 161/783).

The Estalote family, immigrants from Spain and France, operated a competing corner grocery in the vicinity as early as 1880 (1880 Census, E.D.23, Page 520A, Family #259).

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