GOVERNOR’S ROW & THE MARQUIS
Since at least 1726, the property where the Court of Two Sisters restaurant is now located has been a significant cultural presence in New Orleans. During that year, Sieur Etienne de Perier, the second French royal governor of colonial Louisiana, became the original resident of 613 Rue Royale. Originally known as “Governor’s Row”, the 600 block of Royal Street was home to five governors, two State Supreme Court Justices and one future Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Edward Douglas White). Zachary Taylor, who later became the twelfth president of the U.S., also resided for a time at 621 Royal. It has also been rumored that the outrageous Marquis de Vaudreil, another early French governor and the one responsible for transforming New Orleans from a marshland village into a petit Paris, was once a resident of 613 Royal. He was so aristocratic and theatrical that he was known as the “Grand Marquis.” The second floor dining room at the Court of Two Sisters is now called the Grand Marquis Room in his honor.
The present structure at 613-615 Royal was constructed in 1832 during the city’s first major economic boom. It was built for Jean Baptiste Zenon Cavelier, president of the Bank of New Orleans. He and his wife Louise and their five children lived upstairs in the building that was built in the French townhouse style. He and his brother operated stores at 613 Royal and two doors away at 631 Royal. The Court of Two Sisters building passed out of the hands of the Cavelier family in 1854.
TWO SISTERS & A SHOP
The property changed hands twice before 1886 when Emile Angaud purchased the building and the street level store at 613 Royal. This is when Bertha, who was married to Emile’s son Baldomero Angaud, and Emma Camors set up their “rabais” or notions shop they called “The Shop of the Two Sisters.” The two sisters, born in 1858 and 1860 respectively, belonged to a proud and aristocratic Creole family. It was for these sisters that “The Court” was named. Their shop outfitted many of the city’s finest women with Mardi Gras costumes, formal gowns of the “Gay Nineties”, lace and perfumes imported from Paris. It’s said that occasionally the sisters would serve tea and cakes to their favorite customers in the large courtyard beginning the tradition continued today. In 1904, after Bertha’s husband died the property was passed on to his sister’s children. Shortly, after this Emma and Bertha found it necessary to close their shop, unable to sustain their business at a time when the French Quarter was rapidly losing its Creole population in the wake of a flood of Italian immigration. However, marriage, reversals of fortune, widowhood – nothing could separate the sisters. Indeed, as the Picayune was to report, the sisters died within two months of each other in the winter of 1944. United in death as in life, the sisters lie side by side at St. Louis Cemetery #3 on Esplanade Avenue. The Fein family who currently operates the restaurant had the sisters’ tomb restored in 1990.
During the next three decades, the property at 613 Royal passed through seven ownerships. Between 1925 and 1934, the sale value of the Court of Two Sisters declined from $39,000 to $14,000. There are no specific records, but the sisters’ once elegant notions shop is said to have been, at various times, a small bistro, a refreshment stand, and briefly, a speakeasy. Regardless, the location seems to have been a place for refreshments or a restaurant since the late 1920’s. Perhaps it first reached great popularity under the direction of the late Jimmy Cooper who owned it from just before until just after World War II (1940-1956). Cooper developed a lively tourist trade, enhanced by the flow of servicemen and women from all over the world when New Orleans was a major shipbuilding and embarkation center.
THE FEIN FAMILY
In 1963, the late Mr. Joe Fein, Jr., an established local restaurateur, acquired the restaurant and immediately began steps to preserve the building’s historical integrity. Mr. Fein’s sons, Joe III and the late Jerry Fein, continued with their father’s dedication to The Court of Two Sisters and now their children, the third generation, are directing the day-to-day operations and maintaining the legacy of the property’s history and reputation. With the Fein family’s expertise, The Court of Two Sisters has become known worldwide for its live Jazz Brunch, romantic Creole dinners, friendly service and beautiful, open-air courtyard. In 2013, the Fein Family celebrated 50 years at The Court of Two Sisters and looks forward to many more years.
LEGENDS & INTERESTING FACTS
The charm gates at the 613 Royal entrance were wrought in Spain especially for The Court of Two Sisters. Legend says that Queen Isabella of Spain had them blessed so that their charm would pass on to anyone who touched them.
The flags displayed in the front entrance are three of the ten sovereign flags that have flown over Louisiana. The flags represent France, Spain, and the United States.
The painting in the Carriageway and on the cover of our dinner menu is by famous Louisiana artist Clarence Millet (1897-1959) and was painted circa 1930s. A postcard of the painting is for sale at our cashier stand.
Legend says that the true name of the wishing well in the courtyard is the Devil’s Wishing Well, based on the supposition that since Marie Laveau lived only a few blocks away, she most certainly must have practiced her voodoo rites in the torchlit confines of the city’s largest courtyard.
Another legend is that Jean Lafitte, the so-called “gentleman-pirate”, killed three men in three separate duels one night under the famed courtyard Willow tree. The Willow was destroyed during Hurricane Betsy in 1965.