If you grew up in New Orleans, this listing at 4506 Canal St. probably looks very familiar to you. Christmastime meant that your parents took you to view the fabulous decorations at The Centanni House.
The house was owned by Myra (Collins) and Salvador Centanni who, with their seven children, decorated their Art Nouveau-inspired home from 1946 to 1966. The Centanni family business was the nearby Gold Seal Creamery, a Mid-City fixture known for its Creole cream cheese.
Decorations at the house started off with Santa’s workshop including Santa and a rocket ship. Later, a life-size Nativity scene was added, Rudolph and the other reindeer made their appearances and all were illuminated by thousands and thousands of lights and plenty of Christmas music.
One year visitors were startled to find a live elephant included in the display. It seems that Mrs. Centanni had read a children’s book with a circus theme and decided to include a little piece of the circus. Interestingly, a young boy from Chalmette was so inspired by all these decorations that Popeye’s Fried Chicken founder Al Copeland would grow up to replicate the Centanni’s display at his Metairie home.
Once the Centannis discontinued their decorations, their home was eventually bought by real estate agent Tracy Talbot, who has dedicated herself to its renovation. Over the years, however, she’s found it to be a little large for just one person (plus a couple of dogs), and is downsizing.
“I’ve loved living here, and having a relationship with the Centannis,” said Talbot, “and the buyers who’ve been looking at it have been mostly New Orleanians who have moved away and are now moving back to the city.”
The front of the home, looking out on the wide neutral ground with its streetcar tracks, is anchored by a staircase that leads to an enormous porch, all covered by its prominent winged roof. As if the outside with its imposing decorated columns, arched entrance protection and wide, inviting porch isn’t enough, the inside is flat-out magnificent.
There’s a lumber yard worth of solid mahogany throughout the public rooms set off by built-in cabinets with beveled and stained glass fronts. The floors are one-and-a-half inch oak bordered by the same size cherry wood.
“This house was built in 1917 by a man named Kane who owned a masonry business,” explained Talbot, as she pointed out the ‘K’ chiseled into the fireplace, “so you’ll see the same design in schools and churches throughout the New Orleans area.”
Accordion doors inlaid with glass separate the formal dining room with its stained glass windows from the formal living room, also with stained glass windows, but coffered ceilings unite the two front rooms, giving them a maritime feel. Just behind the dining room is the butler’s pantry with lime sherbet-colored tile on its walls, then the kitchen.
“This kitchen is not original to the house,” pointed out Talbot. And indeed, it has every modern convenience: double stainless steel sink, double oven, built-in microwave, side-by-side refrigerator, dishwasher and stove.
The center hall includes an imposing 1890 hat rack and a stunning set of mahogany stairs to the second floor. Down the hall are a couple more bedrooms, one with a built-in desk and one with a built-in closet including built-in drawers. The floors in the private rooms are just as pretty, but less-formal poplar instead of oak was used. Visitors inevitably gasp as they walk into the master bath – everything is marble – including its steam shower and even a steam cabinet.
Down a couple of steps and stretching across the back of the house is the sun room – again, with built-ins – this time, it’s beds that hide out as drawers, then slide out for sleeping. The home also includes an elevator and an intercom. It all adds up to a quintessential New Orleans house, but all the more so.
“This has been such an interesting home to live in,” said Talbot. “It’s like living in a sculpture or a little piece of New Orleans history.”
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