'Catastrophic loss': Historic New Orleans home burns in seven-alarm fire

A historic home in New Orleans' Garden District was engulfed in flames Wednesday as a seven-alarm fire ripped through the 130-year-old residence, the Times-Picayune reported.

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The 8,785-square-foot house on St. Charles Avenue, known as the "Rex House," and the Grace Mansion, is where Rex, King of Carnival, has stopped to toast each year since 1907, WDSU reported. Members of the carnival krewe cross St. Charles Avenue to stop at the house for the toast.

Photographs released by the New Orleans Fire Department showed heavy smoke billowing out of the building. Flames then erupted through the roof, the television station reported. Eighty-two firefighters from 25 units were called to the scene.

Three people inside the home, plus an elderly poodle, escaped the fire without injuries, homeowners Anne and Bill Grace told the Times-Picayune.

“Unfortunately, it is a catastrophic loss,” New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Timothy McConnell told the newspaper.

McConnell said the fire, which was reported at 7:44 a.m., apparently was ignited in the basement of the home. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, the Times-Picayune reported.

The house was built in 1888 for John Morris, founder of the Louisiana Lottery, according to the website, Experience New Orleans. Anne Grace's great-grandfather, Robert Downman, bought the house in 1906 and called it the Downman Mansion. The house has been home to six generations of Grace's family.

"She was a grand old lady that served us so well," Anne Grace told the Times-Picayune. "I'm just in shock. This was such a part of New Orleans history."

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