Le Petit Salon was once the most exclusive and prestigious private women’s organization in New Orleans. Founded in 1924 and described as a “circle of distinguished ladies,” the Salon quickly became an influential player in the cultural revival of the French Quarter during the 1920s. The mission of the Salon was “to revive, promote and continue the pleasant intercourse of the Salon, which gave grace and brilliance to the old society of this city,” with an emphasis on the historic preservation of the French Quarter. When Le Petit Salon was first organized, the French Quarter had experienced decades of neglect and decay. By 1920, preservationists, including members of Le Petit Salon, were making strides to protect and revive the historic neighborhood.
Le Petit Salon’s members were often women of high social status and prominence from Uptown New Orleans. The Salon membership was a combination of old Quartier Club members and active members of Le Petit Theatre. Their gatherings on Thursday afternoons and receptions after Le Petit Theatre’s performances featured notable literary figures like Sherwood Anderson, Hamilton Basso, Roark Bradford, Oliver La Farge, Lyle Saxon and Tennessee Williams. These weekly meetings included literary and poetry recitals, historic and philosophical lectures, and musical performances by both club members and nationally renowned artists.
New Orleans native and writer Grace King served as the first president of Le Petit Salon and organized the purchase of the Salon’s 620 St. Peter Street residence. King was born to a wealthy New Orleans family in 1852, and had deep loyalties to her Creole heritage, writing from “a sort of patriotism--a feeling of loyalty to the South.” Her work as a journalist and historian helped push Southern literature into the national spotlight. After her death in 1932, author and friend Lyle Saxon eulogized Grace King as New Orleans’s “greatest woman and our greatest writer.” Advice columnist Dorothy Dix followed King as president.
On August 10, 1925, Le Petit Salon bought and restored the townhouse at 620 St. Peter Street for $13,500 to accommodate its growing membership. Constructed in 1838, the Greek Revival home was built for successful hardware merchant Victor David, an immigrant from France to New Orleans after the fall of Napoleon. Tulane architecture professor and preservationist Samuel Wilson credited Le Petit Salon with initiating the restoration of the French Quarter in the 1920s. One of the club’s greatest preservation successes was the formation of a committee appointed to the French Quarter Commission to prevent the demolition of the Beauregard-Keyes House in 1925.