The Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop is believed to be built in the 1720s by Nicolas Touze before the Spanish Colonial period (1762 – 1801), where the western basin of the Mississippi River and New Orleans was ruled by the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Due to the lack of documentation, little is known about the building and its use in the 18th and 19th century. That said, it is one of few historical structures that have survived the devastating Great New Orleans Fire in 1788 and 1794.
However, the legend says that Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was formerly owned by Jean Lafitte, a notorious French privateer who ran a smuggling empire in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. The operation involved working with privateers who raided goods from foreign ships and smuggling them into the city, avoiding any government fees and taxes.
The name “Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop” is believed to have originated from the building’s former operation as a smithy, which were run by the Jean Lafitte, his brother Pierre Laffite, and their associate Renato Beluch. However, it is mostly a facade for their illegal business, which involved the distribution and selling of contraband goods. The Laffite brothers became local legends for their courageous efforts in aiding General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British forces during the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.
The building served as a residence, a workshop and eventually a bar in the early 20th century.
In the 1940s, the shop was turned into Café Lafitte by Roger ‘Tom’ Caplinger. The cafe soon became a popular hangout spot for the gay community. However, as Caplinger did not hold ownership of the property, it was promptly sold by its owners in 1953. As one of the oldest surviving structure in the New Orleans, the historic building was declared a National Historical Landmark and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The building now operates as a private bar and restaurant, offering a range of iconic New Orlean dishes as well as alcoholic drinks including the famous “voodoo” grape daiquiri served in a small plastic cup.
Ghosts at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
The shop is now said to be haunted by Jean Lafitte himself. The spirit of Jean was reported by numerous patrons to be sitting near the fireplace, where legend says that his stash of gold was hidden in the brick wall behind. The full body apparition of Jean is also known to roam around the door to the women’s bathroom. In one incident, a staff was cleaning up the counter after the closing of the bar when he heard the creaking sounds of the century-old floorboards.
Apart from the ghost of Jean Lafitte, the spirit of a middle-aged woman has also seemed to take up permanent residence in the bar. It is said that she was a tenant living on the second floor during the 1890s and for unknown reasons, committed suicide. On several occasions, male patrons claimed to have heard whispers of a lady calling them to come upstairs. She was also spotted prowling in the second floor of the bar after midnight.
The most terrifying paranormal phenomena is perhaps a pair of “piercing red eyes” that is said to glow from the dark corners of the bar’s first floor. Many have reported entering a trance after locking eyes with the demonic apparition, only to be shook awake by other concerned patrons.
No Electricity in the Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is famously known to operate with no electricity and relies on candles after nightfall. With the exception of Christmas string lights strewn across the building’s interior and exterior, the bar is lit mostly by candlelights, lanterns and a fireplace. The current owners of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop had hoped that the absence of overhead lighting would recreate the 18th century atmosphere where swashbuckling buccaneers would gather and plot their next raid.
How Old Is the Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop?
The exact year that Latiffe’s Blacksmith Shop was constructed is unknown, although the official website states that it was built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze. This makes the historic house over 300 years old, and one of the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States.
However, alternative sources have suggested that it may have been built by Jean and Pierre Lafitte between 1772 and 1791 to serve as a forge and illegal warehouse, making the house just under 250 years old. That said, there is no evidence to suggest that the Lafitte brothers have once occupied the building or even set foot on it, and that it may have been nothing more than a brilliant to keep tourists coming.