NEW ORLEANS – After three years of planning, negotiations and navigating the complexities of a historic renovation, M.S. Rau is now ready to unveil its multimillion-dollar new retail gallery expansion to the public. The gallery’s new footprint in the French Quarter covers nearly 40,000 square feet of indoor space over three floors and four open courtyards encompassing the entire block.
Led by third-generation owner Bill Rau, the gallery has grown by leaps and bounds since his grandfather Max Rau opened the doors to a then-small antique store in 1912. Rau purchased the first of the two historic buildings adjoining the original gallery in 2015 and the second in 2016 and began work.
“From the very beginning, it has been our goal to restore as many of the buildings’ original features as possible,” said owner Bill Rau. “The architects in charge of the monumental project were Jonathan Tate and Rob Baddour of Jonathan Tate in New Orleans, and the lead designer was Scott Truitt of Truitt Brand Design of Boise, Idaho. They have done incredible work, and you will find gorgeous architectural details throughout the gallery.”
The buildings were originally constructed in 1832 by Dr. Isadore Labutut and are considered two of the finest examples of Creole architecture in the city. Additionally, adding to their historic allure, the courtyard of 624 Royal St. was the site where the infamous Great Fire of Dec. 8, 1794 ignited. The project converted the two connecting historic landmark buildings, which featured divided residential and retail spaces, into a world-class gallery offering a wide array of historical treasures.
All of the work is in keeping with historical preservation, from the choice of colors and materials to the original fireplaces. Hallways seamlessly connect the newly renovated buildings with the original gallery, which lead to an inviting, classic New Orleans courtyard oasis for guests to relax. High ceilings that were once more a function of climate control, now lend a majestic quality to these expansive second-floor galleries.
Today, each of the rooms is carefully curated to include incredible antiques by premier artisans, including Tiffany & Co., Paul Revere and Fabergé. There is also an unparalleled collection of important, original paintings by Monet, Picasso and Bouguereau, and a diverse selection of exquisite jewels, including rare colored diamonds, Kashmir sapphires and Burma rubies.