Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is a tavern located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Philip Street. The building, constructed in the French/Spanish colony by 1732, is one of the older surviving structures in New Orleans and has been called the oldest structure in the U.S. housing a bar.
According to legend, the privateerJean Lafitte (c.1780–c.1823) owned a business here early in the 19th century. As with many things involving the Lafittes, such as possibly using this place to plot illegal seizures and the sale of contraband, no documentation exists. (It was only after the Lafitte brothers were long gone that Jean's signature was found on a document, finally ascertaining how their family name was spelled: LAFFITE.)
It is purported to be one of the more haunted venues in the French Quarter. The name Blacksmith Shop may not be coincidental. Lafitte's associates might have operated a smithy here during the days of reliance upon horses (who had to be shod). Jean's older brother Pierre Lafitte was a blacksmith, and their associate Renato Beluche may have once owned this building.
The current business traces its roots to Roger 'Tom' Caplinger, who in the mid-1940s turned the old abandoned shop into Café Lafitte. The cafe became a popular night spot that attracted a bohemian clientele, including the gay community and celebrities like Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams. However, Caplinger never held clear title to the property and the building was sold in 1953. He soon opened a second cafe at the other end of the same block named Café Lafitte in Exile, which maintains that it is the oldest gay bar in the U.S.