Carnival parades come and go, and Gallier Hall has seen them all.
"One of the most historic buildings in New Orleans is Gallier hall, named after James Gallier the architect who built it in 1850," said Carnival historian Arthur Hardy. "Starting in 1857, every Mardi Gras arade, about 1,500 of them, has stopped right here to be greeted by the mayor."
It was true from the very beginning. Just three years after Gallier Hall's dedication in 1843, the brand new Mistick Krewe of Comus staged the city's first Mardi Gras procession. By 1872, Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff reviewed Comus and the very first Rex parade from the stands at Gallier Hall.
The building did take a few breaks. In 1958, the mayor's reviewing stand moved in front of the new, modern City Hall for four years before returning to Gallier Hall by popular demand.
In 2015, the building's crumbling facade forced the iconic backdrop to take a back seat.
Sonny Borey of the Mayor's Mardi Gras Advisory Council explained, "A piece of the stone fell off of the top of the building. and for safety's sake we wanted to make sure that the public was safe."
After extensive work on the exterior, the building returned to center stage in 2016.
The action isn't just out on the reviewing stands. Inside Gallier Hall on Mardi Gras, tables will be loaded with refreshments. The room that was once home to the City Council will bustle with guests under the watchful eyes of a wall-sized mural by New Orleans artist George Dureau. "The Parade Paused" was commissioned by the city in 1990 and captures the Gallier Hall Carnival spirit.
The Greek Revival building's interior shows the wear and tear of a century-and-a-half of steady use. A push has begun to raise money for extensive renovation in preparation for the city's tricentennial.
The Gallier Hall Preservation Committee is working to raise $5 million in private funding to fully restore the building's paintings, chandeliers and grand ballrooms.
As Borey pointed out, "When you think of Gallier Hall, you think of Mardi Gras."
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