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Historic Mansion Turned into a Film Studio

Central City Millworks, through Leo Duvernay of Duvernay Construction, performed a renovation that included exterior and interior millwork replacement for a dilapidated historic house at 807 Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. The house has been adapted by Peter and Susan Hoffman and their company Seven Arts Pictures Louisiana LLC into a film post-production studio that also features six residential suites.

The house, a three-story mansion of more than 10,000 square feet, is an 1859 Greek Revival Whann-Bohn House originally dripped with elegance. The house included elaborate plaster medallions and crown molding, marble mantels, Cuban mahogany stair railings, murals on the walls and ceilings, and more.

Side Exterior View

Photos Courtesy of Eugenia Uhl

For years, the historic house languished as a ruin, and had been known as a den of misconducts in the area. But despite that, the Hoffman couple fell in love with the home and through their company, Seven Arts Pictures Louisiana LLC, purchased it in 2007 with investors for $1.7 million.

In an article from the Preservation Resource Center, Susan Hoffman said, “As a lover of all things in New Orleans, it was love at first sight with 807 Esplanade. Although crumbling and in major disrepair, I knew it could become beautiful again.”

Restored Mantle

It took them time to finance the proper and complete restoration, but by using historic, new market, and film infrastructure tax credits and by engaging dedicated investors, the couple completed a $13 million renovation that revitalized and revamped the historical dilapidated mansion.

In the same article from PRC, Susan described, “There were trees growing into the house, moisture was coming in everywhere, and the back section had been condemned by the city and had been taken down.” The couple was careful in saving all of the remaining architectural elements, of which there were plenty. These elements were indicative of the era of the home’s construction, blending Neoclassical, Baroque, and Victorian elements during the restoration. In the inspection prior to renovation, the engineer determined that, unbelievably, the house was in good shape and that the structure would last but everything else was crumbling.

Terry Schallhaas was hired as the project’s architect, and architect Rick Fifield was also brought in as a consultant. Tommy Lachin brilliantly restored what seem to be acres of plaster molding and medallions throughout the home. He also “recreated” the missing marble mantels with plaster casts that were later marbleized by artist Judy Merrell. General contractor Duvernay Construction contacted CCM to do both interior and exterior millwork, and Bevolo was brought in for lighting design.

Second Floor Parlor

The once improvised run-down hotel had been transformed into a fiber-optic filled film haven that has been outfitted with the most high-tech and modern communications and editing equipment available. It features sound studios, editing rooms, and a screening area, as well as six apartment suites. The ground floor of the house will feature a large double parlor for relaxing and entertaining, and the studios and suites will be located on the second and third floors, with additional living spaces in the carriage house.

“The film credit program in Louisiana has been enormously successful in bringing production here, but people leave when it’s done, and even when they’re here in the production period, they don’t really have the right facilities for various things, such as creating digital dailies or being able to do color timing,” Peter Hoffman explained. By outfitting this historic mansion with high-tech equipment and also luxury suites, the Hoffmans are making it possible for film editing teams, including producers and directors, to stay in New Orleans through the final film creation stages. “This is the ultimate live and work situation for film people that will keep the entertainment industry here and create permanent jobs in our city,” Peter said in a PRC article.

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