Every year, as the pleasant weather of spring gives way to the long, hot summers typical of New Orleans’ subtropical Gulf Coast climate, portions of Gallier House are redecorated to reflect the “Summer Dress” tradition of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Before the advent of air conditioning, electric fans, or even window screens, housekeepers were forced to protect furnishings from insects, dust, mildew, sun-fading and sweat, and to at least live in partial comfort during the soaring temperatures of June, July, and August.
Visitors to the Galliers’ double parlor will see chairs and sofas draped in white slipcovers to protect elaborate upholstered furniture. Seagrass mats replace woolen rugs and carpets. Heavy silk draperies are removed, leaving the windows veiled in airy lace curtains that flow with the rare summer breeze. Chandeliers, gilded picture frames and mirrors are wrapped in netting to shield them from insects and dirt.
Today’s Gallier House features modern climate control, but we invite our summer visitors to imagine a time when, as the Daily Crescent newspaper complained on July 2, 1858, New Orleanians had to endure “the roasting, melting, stewing, killing temperature of the atmosphere.”