Maspero’s Exchange, also known as Maspero’s Coffee House and now called the “Original Pierre Maspero’s,” is located at 440 Chartres Street, on the corner of St. Louis and Chartres Streets, nearest the river and Canal Street. The original 1788 house at this address was destroyed in the 1794 fire. The present structure was allegedly built between 1795 and 1810. According to the National Park Service, it was originally known as the Exchange Coffee House, and it served as a meeting place for planters, merchants, and privateers.
In a room on the second floor at Maspero’s, Andrew Jackson reputedly planned the defense of New Orleans with Jean Lafitte in late 1814. Many New Orleanians believed that Jean and Pierre Lafitte used the second floor for their headquarters. Both Maspero’s Exchange and the Absinthe House have disputed over the years where Andrew Jackson met with Jean Lafitte before the Battle of New Orleans. Both historic buildings claim the distinction.
In 1950, the owner of Maspero’s Exchange filed suit against the Absinthe House over the right to post a historical plaque on the building. That same year the Absinthe House installed a marker which read: “Old Absinthe House. Legend has it that Andrew Jackson and Gov. W.C.C. Claiborne met here with Jean Lafittte on the secret floor to plan for the defense of New Orleans. The Battle of New Orleans was fought Jan. 8, 1815.” In February 1951, a Judge in Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, dismissed Maspero’s lawsuit, ruling: “Legend means nothing more than hearsay or a story handed down from the past.” Both Maspero’s and Absinthe House still lay claim to the legend.
In the early 1900s, only a small wrought iron balcony appeared on the St. Louis Street side. Later in the 20th century, a cast iron gallery was added to the Chartres Street side.