Redeveloping a Slice of Local History
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Author: Austin Lukes
May 2, 2018
For close to a century, the scent of freshly baked bread wafted out from the family run bakery at the intersection of Desire and Dauphine streets in Bywater. Today, the historic property located at 3400 Dauphine St. is receiving a new lease on life after its recent purchase and renovation into six residential units. Local real estate developer Blue House Construction + Consulting purchased the site in September 2017, which was formerly home to a number of businesses, most notably Meyer’s Bakery. The development project is spread across three separate buildings and includes a mixture of studios and two-bedroom units. Historically, in addition to the bakery, the site also contained a carriage house and corner store that operated concurrently.
John Eckendorff operated the first bakery on the property for 25 years until his death in 1902. His wife inherited the property and their son-in-law Otto R. Meyer took over the business in 1905, renaming it Meyer’s Bakery and advertising under the tagline, “A Finer Flavored French Bread.” After Meyer’s death in 1927, his widow, Katherine Eckendorff Meyer and their son Alvin F. Meyer took over operations until Alvin’s retirement in 1965. After several subsequent changes in ownership, Blue House acquired the property and was pleasantly surprised by the condition it was in.
Blue House Construction + Consulting is owned and operated by Katherine O’Bryon and Anthony Kimble, both recent graduates from Tulane’s Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development program. O’Bryon says their education within the program, “gave us the confidence to understand what a worthwhile investment this property was.”
Worthwhile may be underselling the potential. Though the buildings match the size and scale of surrounding blocks, they still visually indicate their previous uses, setting them apart from neighboring shotguns and Creole cottages. A corner door, set at a diagonal, once welcomed residents to the neighborhood store. A humble bay window, recently restored to its original condition, would have advertised its wares to passersby.
Adjacent to the storefront is a former carriage house, with a large entryway that has been recently refurbished. A narrow passageway lies between the two buildings and is used to access an open space at the rear of the property that once was a common area for the three business interests to store materials and equipment. Now it is a quiet respite from the city that has grown up around it. “After viewing the compound, we were taken back by its charm,” says O’Bryon. “The grounds of the property are like a small, untamed oasis.”
Though there were challenges in the undertaking, the integrity of historic elements found throughout the property made restoration a priority for Blue House. Fortunately, details such as the decorative millwork and floor moldings had been well maintained throughout the property’s history.
Possibly the greatest historic treasure is the original bakery oven now located in the studios to the rear of the property. This, along with its restored brick wall, captures the character of the 140-year-old structure. Blue House has elegantly preserved as much as possible without sacrificing living space or comfort.
O’Bryon and Kimble saw the potential of what could be done at the property, but the entire project was at times monumental. When discussing what they learned as a result of such a vast amount of planning and work, O’Bryon said, “Historic renovations are a team sport. Issues that arose throughout the renovation required creative solutions — nothing was square, level, or perfect — and it still isn’t. But we were able to modernize aspects of the property while honoring its craftsmanship and historic integrity, a balance that is integral to our work.”
Photos by Liz Jurey and Davis Allen