Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba, 1795-1874

  • Micaela-Almonester-Baroness-de-Pontalba-WWP

Woman Category: Arts and Business & EntrepreneurshipWoman Tags: Architect, Businesswoman, and NOLA Women

  • HerStory

    A wealthy New Orleans-born Creole aristocrat, businesswoman, real estate designer and developer, and the sponsor of Pontalba Buildings.

    Born in New Orleans when it was a small town of about 6,000 residents, serving as the capital of the Spanish colony of Louisiana. When Micaela was 15 years old, her mother arranged her to marry her cousin Célestin Delfau de Pontalba. She moved to France for him and became the Baroness Pontalba.

    Almonester was mistreated by her father in law and lost two fingers when he tried to kill her. She separated from her husband and secured the legal rights for her wealth. After a short return to New Orleans, she agreed to her husband’s request to take care of him back in France. She did so for 23 years until her death.
    Micaela Almonester is famous in New Orleans for conceiving the Pontalba Buildings, an architectural landmark on Jackson Square. When the complex was finished in 1851, it contributed to revitalizing the center of the city. She inherited the land at the age of three from her father, who was considered to be the richest man in town. She endures as one of the most recalled and dynamic personalities in the city’s history, though she lived most of her life in Paris.

    “She was something of a curiosity to be whispered about”, Christina Vella in the book “Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba”.

    “She was something of a curiosity to be whispered about”, Christina Vella in the book “Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba”.


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was called Micael.
    • The mansion, which serves the US ambassador’s residence in Paris was originally built for her.
    • The Swedish vocalist Jenny Lind was one of the first tenants of Pontalba Buildings during her tour in New Orleans.
    • The opera ‘Pontalba’ was written about her.
    • Through her life, she suffered from epileptic seizures. She had five children, but only three lived to adulthood.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Pontalba Buildings & 1850 House: TRICENTENNIAL MOMENTS

    The matching red-brick apartment buildings that border Jackson Square are the legacy of the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, a visionary New Orleans businesswoman and real estate developer. The 1850 House in New Orleans’ Lower Pontalba Building offers a glimpse into the city’s past with antebellum art and décor in a fashionable residence that is part of the Louisiana State Museum system.

  • A portrait by Amelie Legrand de Saint-Aubin, early 19th century. Photo credit - Wikipedia