From the late 1890s until 1948, Rougelot's was the largest department store downriver from Canal Street. Located at the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street, it served as the anchor store for the Frenchmen/Esplanade commercial district until closing in 1948.
Rougelot's opened on October 5, 1891, as Rougelot & Co. Robert Rougelot is listed in the New Orleans Directory as a salesman at Thalheimer & Dalsheimer as early as 1881. He and his family lived at 38 Frenchman Street. Family lore suggests that Robert’s wife -- Emily Cragg Rougelot -- started selling French laces and notions in the front room of their house. It was "known by the Creole people of that day as a 'rabais store,' " according to a 1948 Times-Picayune article. Thus, the shop offered inexpensive goods required for sewing and other household work. Family members treasure memories of Mrs. Rougelot tending to customers while holding her children. When measuring fabric, she would place her infant into her customer's arms. Business increased rapidly, so the store relocated to Esplanade and expanded in scope.
Sarah Bernhardt and prizefighter John L. Sullivan were among the celebrities who shopped there at one time. During the mid-1920s, the modernist author John Dos Passos lived in an apartment in the building while working on his Manhattan Transfer novel.
Excerpt from Sidney Rougelot’s interview with his relative Claire Rougelot Delhom:
"My great grandmother started the Rougelot store in the front room of her house. I understand it was very popular, and it closed in 1948 because no one in the family wanted to take it on. Canal Street was becoming ever more popular, and none of the younger generation wanted to move the store or take it over. So it closed in ’48." Mrs. Delhom's painting of the building is featured in the slide show.