Historic St. Charles Avenue mansion, Carnival icon, lost in blaze

A Victorian-style home and Carnival icon along historic St. Charles Avenue was destroyed in a multi-alarm fire Wednesday morning.

by Clint Durrett
February 20, 2019

UPDATE: Despite fire, Rex will continue to stop at historic St. Charles mantion, officials say

A Victorian-style home and Carnival icon along historic St. Charles Avenue was destroyed in a multi-alarm fire Wednesday morning.

The mansion, located at 2525 St. Charles Avenue, is a key stop on Fat Tuesday for Rex, the King of Carnival. Rex has stopped at the home for more than 100 years for a toast on Mardi Gras.

The fire began about 7:44 a.m. in the 2500 block of St Charles Avenue. Fire crews rescued an elderly woman from the home and made sure the house was clear.

The fire led to city officials warning residents about the air quality cast over the city, advising some residents to stay indoors with the windows closed. City Hall, located dozens of city blocks away, was temporarily evacuated due to smoke.

The city issued the following instructions for residents in parts of the city:

“Due to the fire on St. Charles Avenue and strong winds, smoke is traveling from St. Charles Avenue toward Gentilly and may impact air quality in the CBD, French Quarter, Treme, Mid-City, Fairgrounds, Seventh Ward, St. Roch and Gentilly neighborhoods.

“Residents, especially sensitive groups including the elderly and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are encouraged to take the following actions to reduce exposure to smoke and particles:

  • Stay indoors.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Set air-conditioning systems to re-circulate the air inside the building.
  • Avoid using exhaust fans if possible.”

Images from the scene late in the morning show glowing embers and orange flames reaching high from the first floor into the sky, emerging from the roof of the historic building.

Initially, fire crews attempted to attack the blaze in the basement, but more fire crews were called to the scene to assist as the flames raged and grew.

Crews noticed heavy yellow smoke coming from the basement, indicating the possibility of chlorine being involved in the growing blaze.

“The homeowner informed NOFD personnel that chlorine and other pool products were stored in the basement, confirming the suspicions,” the NOFD said in a news release.

Because of the chemical, crews evacuated the basement and first floor.

Around 9 a.m., the fire grew into five alarms as the flames escalated into the attic. A seventh alarm was raised as the walls of the historic home began to collapse.

Because of the massive fire, aid was requested from surrounding parishes, including St. Tammany, Jefferson, Kenner and St Bernard.

The Regional Transit Authority, the agency that oversees public transportation in New Orleans, stopped service on St Charles Avenue between Jackson and Louisiana avenues as crews battled the blaze.

According to The Historic New Orleans Collection, Rex has stopped at the home on Mardi Gras since 1907, when the owner at the time was Robert Downman, who reigned as Rex that same year. Downman is the current homeowner’s grandfather, THNOC said in a post on Twitter.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.

2525 St Charles Ave
Getting there
2525 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA

Hi. I’m Clint. I’m the Local Market Manager for Very Local New Orleans. I’ve lived in New Orleans since 2001 and been living my best life in this rad place since that year. I have 10 years of broadcast journalism and digital media experience. Before Very Local New Orleans, I worked for WDSU-TV – producing, product developing, digital media managing– I’ve done it all. I’ve seen first-hand the trials we’ve suffered in this city and the celebrations we’ve enjoyed. I love New Orleans. It’s home. I’m going to work my hardest to bring you the content and experiences you care...

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