Lacosst Monument

Eugene Lacosst (1854 – 1915) was one of the very colorful individuals that gave personality to the city of New Orleans. Early in his career, Lacosst was a local hairdresser frequented by many women from the top families in New Orleans. These social connections were a boon in an age of parlor parties. At these occasions, Lacosst, known for his unmatched talent of whistling, was often called upon to regale those in attendance with his warbling.

The Surprise of Wealth

While successful in his business, both socially and professionally, Lacosst amassed a fantastic wealth thanks to his wise stock market speculation in the late 1800’s. It was this new wealth that permitted Lacosst to earmark $60,000 for the construction of a stunning mausoleum that is perhaps only rivaled by earlier constructions in Europe.

One of the defining characteristics of New Orleans is its elevation below water level. The need to protect the deceased from flooding has led to the creation of elaborate mausoleums in many signature cemeteries and memorial parks. The Lacosst Mausoleum is a testament to the design and craftsmanship available to those of means.

The Lacosst Legacy: A Stunningly Styled Monument

Located in the Metairie Cemetery near New Orleans’ famed Garden District, the Lacosst Mausoleum is an homage to a memorial for a prominent Cardinal at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. New Orleans-based architects Burton & Bendernagel created a perfect Renaissance Revival-style monument in the Lacosst Mausoleum.

At the center of the structure is a pedestal holding the sarcophagus. This design element is known, according to Douglas Keister, as an exedra. An exedra is a rectangular or semi-circular recess with raised seating. The entire structure is crafted from cream-colored Alabama marble, which was excavated and transported to the workshops of Albert Weiblen, the manufacturer of Burton & Bendernagel’s vision.
Construction of the Lacosst Mausoleum was performed and completed in the midst of World War I. The wartime effort resulted in severe shortages of both labor and material. The fact the mausoleum was able to be created was, as Keister notes, “as much a testament to Lacosst’s wealth as it is to the craft of the stone carvers.”

Artisans were brought in from Italy to gently and expertly mold the raw Alabama marble into the stunning structure it is today. The architects were so committed to the design that they insisted only the finest pieces of excavated marble be used in the final construction. After a process of constant quality assurance, the production team discarded enough marble that over two dozen other mausoleums could have been constructed just from the rejected material.

Metairie Cemetery: Jewel of the Crescent City

The Metairie Cemetery is named for the road on which it is located and the Bayou Metairie. Visitors might think the cemetery is located in the nearby suburb of the same name, but it is actually located within New Orleans city limits. The city’s elevation just below sea level has required above-ground interment of deceased residents for generations. Throngs of visitors to New Orleans tour the city’s cemeteries and mausoleums because they are so unique.

Metairie Cemetery is widely regarded as having the largest collection of elaborate marble tombs and funeral statuary in the city. Several notable New Orleanians are interred at Metairie Cemetery. Among them are:

  • Ruth Fertel, the founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • Jim Garrison, former D.A. of New Orleans and subject of the Oliver Stone film JFK
  • Mel Ott, Hall of Fame major league baseball player
  • Louis Prima, legendary band leader

A New Orleanian for Eternity

Eugene Lacosst represented that distinctly idiosyncratic combination of complexity and curiosity for which New Orleans is known. Born a servant and died a sire, Lacosst specified in his will that his monument should be designed only to accommodate two caskets: his own and his mother’s.

Photos and text © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”Metairie Cemetery” street=”5101 Pontchartrain Boulevard” city=”New Orleans” state=”Louisiana” zip=”70124″]

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