Blue Plate Artist lofts stand as a constant reminder of the past and “what once was” for the New Orleans Community along with mayonnaise lovers nationwide. 1315 South Jefferson Davis Parkway used to be the home of the prolific Blue Plate Mayonnaise factory, a cultural icon for the denizens of New Orleans, but now it has been refurbished and replaced by a 72 loft apartments complex. The genesis of the factory occurred in 1929 when Wesson-Snowdrift Company, an offshoot of The Southern Oil Company, began to produce mayonnaise. This was a surprising, yet monumental decision and the first location selected was a warehouse in Gretna opened under the oh-so-memorable Blue Plate name.
In 1941 the illustrious Blue Plate building was constructed. This task was taken on by New Orleans architect, August Perez Junior. The events of Pearl Harbor called the completion of the project into question due to government need for materials. Production continued and was executed through creative tactics, including the use of recycled materials. Despite all the setbacks, in November of 1943 the building opened for business in its new white concrete factory, cementing itself as a local landmark.
The factory continued production under Wesson-Snowdrift for about thirty years until 1974, when Riley Foods purchased the company and continued production at the location. This continued for about twenty years until the company made the decision to shut down the factory operations.
The factory closure coupled with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina seemed to ensure the location’s demise. Though it seemed Blue Plate lights would never shine again, HRI properties and JCH development invested 25$ million dollars in the renovation of the factory in order to open loft apartments in 2011. Though the mayonnaise does not flow anymore at the location; the legendary Blue Plate sign still shines brightly as a constant reminder of what was once there.
What made Blue Plate so monumentally important was the simultaneously historic and cultural influence it had. Historically, Blue Plate was one of the first commercially prepared mayonnaise producers and distributors in the United States. This revolutionary practice brought attention to New Orleans and impacted cuisine Nationwide. Culturally, Blue Plate stood as a pillar of culinary modernization within a city renowned for its food. On your favorite Po-Boy, you can bet your bottom dollar a slap of Blue Plate Mayo adorns your sandwich if it is authentic. Store bought mayonnaise became a household product only after the early 1900’s; before this, it was considered a gourmet condiment that could only be acquired from exclusive, often homemade, producers. This fact alone hints to just how influential Blue Plate was at enacting change.
The Blue Plate factory building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.