Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

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Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is located in Louisiana
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Location 941 Bourbon St., New Orleans, Louisiana
Coordinates 29°57′38.66″N 90°3′50.02″W / 29.9607389°N 90.0638944°W / 29.9607389; -90.0638944Coordinates: 29°57′38.66″N 90°3′50.02″W / 29.9607389°N 90.0638944°W / 29.9607389; -90.0638944
Built 1722-32
Architect Nicolas Touze
Architectural style French Colonial
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 70000255
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 15, 1970[1]
Designated NHL April 15, 1970[2]

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is a site in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.

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.[3][4]

According to legend, the privateer Jean 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.[citation needed] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[5]

The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.[2][6] It is a rare extant example of briquette-entre-poteaux construction.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  3. ^ "12 Oldest Places in America". 12 oldest places in America. Fox News. Retrieved 2015-03-21. 
  4. ^ a b Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar Official website, citing 1722-32 construction and possible ownership by Renato Beluche; accessed 21 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b John Kelly, 1950's: Tom Caplinger at Cafe Lafitte in French Quarter, The Times-Picayune, March 27, 2011, accessed March 10, 2015.
  6. ^ Charles W. Snell (May 10, 1968). "National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings: Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 3 photos, exterior, from 1968. PDF (168 KiB)