It was a fluke of sorts that resulted in John and Anna Belle Loeb buying their 1826 masonry home on Independence Street in Bywater.
“We had been in town looking and looking for a place to buy and had given up,” John said. “We were planning to fly home to Philadelphia when our flight was canceled because of a blizzard.
"That’s when our broker invited us along to take a look at a place that wasn’t even listed.”
The broker, Michael Wilkinson of French Quarter Realty, was hoping the owners of the house would list it with him when they were ready to put it on the market. But the timetable accelerated as soon as the Loebs saw the place.
“We knew right away that this was it,” said Anna Belle.
The Loebs’ house and six more will be on tour Sunday when the Bywater Neighborhood Association hosts its spring tour of homes from noon to 4 p.m.
In addition to the Loebs’ house, stops include several single shotgun houses, two contemporary dwellings, and a Quonset hut converted to a stylish double.
Guests can buy tickets ($20) and pick up a tour map at the new Bywater Bakery, 3624 Dauphine Street.
The Loebs negotiated the purchase of the former Macarty Plantation dependency from music producer John Porter and moved into the house in October 2015.
“We had to do a lot of structural work, and we wanted to totally rehab the kitchen and master bath, so we lived in the rear two-story additions for a few months,” said Anna Belle. “We love to read and have a lot of books so even before the kitchen and bath renovations, we built in bookcases in the living room and the room that John (Porter) used for his CDs.”
Although renovation projects can be fraught, the Loebs credit contractor Doug Matthews of Concordia and architect Jim Cripps with making theirs as painless as possible.
Books were the first of the couple’s possessions to move in, along with their orange long-haired cat, Rocky. While work was underway, their collection of art was stored by metal artist Adam Farringdon, a decision that turned out to be a godsend.
“We’d thought about storing it at the place across the street that burned to the ground in a multialarm fire a few months into the project,” said John.
“As awful as it was watching the place burn, we were comforted by neighbors who stayed with us to make sure our place was OK. That’s the kind of neighborhood the Bywater is.”
Anna Belle is an artist in her own right who works in acrylics. Her studio is in the Inferno building on Royal Street not far from the couple's home.
Two works in the house attest to her talent, keeping company with dozens of additional works by local artists and some from Philadelphia where the couple lived for 50 years before moving to New Orleans.
“We buy what we like, sometimes on impulse, so I don’t think of us as collectors. Most pieces are fairly modest,” said John.
Paintings, sculptures and mixed media pieces fill the walls, shelves and tabletops in a fitting counterpoint to the many fine antique Oriental rugs in the home.
Furniture (including a fine 1826 armoire) is scaled to the tall ceilings of the three rooms on the top and bottom levels of the original house, as well as the two-story rear addition dating to the 1890s.
Glass French doors in each room open to let in fresh air and abundant light.
“The garden is especially nice to be in this time of year,” said Anna Belle, who enjoys the camellias, sweet olives, begonias and other plants that line the walkway from the gate in the front wall to the property's rear.
There, an immense live oak holds sway. A small pool installed by the Porters affords cool relief on the hottest summer days.
As much as the Loebs adore their home, they are equally enamored of their neighborhood. Walking and bike riding along Crescent Park, outings to nearby eateries, dining at the homes of friends, exploring the neighborhood, and going to gallery openings and art exhibits are just some of Bywater’s offerings that John and Anna Belle cherish.
“We love the artistic spirit of the neighborhood, including the young people with their piercings and tattoos,” said Anna Belle. “I don’t have a tattoo but I did buy a blue wig last year, so you never know.”
Bywater Home Tour
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23
Where: Starts at the Bywater Bakery, 3624 Dauphine St.