Madame John's Legacy: 2013 Excavation by Ryan Gray and UNO

During the Summer of 2013, a team from Tulane University and its Masters in Preservation Studies program undertook a long-term study of conservation issues at Madame John’s Legacy. This project was financed in part with federal funds from the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, through the Louisiana State Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Office of Cultural Development, Division of Historic Preservation. Portions of the brick walls have undergone substantial deterioration, and the goal of the conservation effort was to determine the source of moisture and salts adversely affecting the brickwork on site. A number of techniques were utilized to this end, including infrared imagery, test coring of the walls, and the installation of sensors to monitor moisture at select locations in the walls. The results of the study can be found at

The Tulane study integrated archaeological data as well. Ryan Gray of the UNO Department of Anthropology was engaged to assess the conditions of the foundations and to clear a location for installation of moisture monitors. A team of volunteers and students from UNO conducted excavations along three interior walls inside Madame John’s. Several features were documented, including remains of a French Colonial structure and a dense lens of debris from the 1788 fire, probably representing the ‘in situ’ collapse of the pre-1788 structure’s lower level.

Each of the projects added valuable context to the site’s history, and the level from the 1788 fire presents a vivid picture of the material culture of the DeLanzos household. Perhaps even more significantly, the spatial dimension of the data adds to the site’s story as well. DeLanzos and his wife were involved in numerous transactions involving the sale and purchase of enslaved individuals. By comparing the distribution of artifacts in the interior of the house at the time of the 1788 fire with those from the courtyard, more likely associated with the detached kitchen and presumed living area of those enslaved at Madame John’s (explored in Dawdy’s research), one may get a sense of the ways in which these social worlds were interlinked. The material remains and surviving documents serve as a reminder that slavery was not solely rural and plantation based; the labor and lives of the enslaved made the growth of the city possible.



628-632 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, LA