Fire causes minor damage to Presbytere building on Jackson Square _lowres

Louisiana State Museum properties, the Presbytere, at right, and the Cabildo flank St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. The buildings face Jackson Square in New Orleans (Provided Photo)

A fire Sunday afternoon caused light smoke damage to the second and third floors and heavy damage to the mechanical room of the two-century-old Presbytere building on Jackson Square, the New Orleans Fire Department said.

The department received a 911 call reporting smoke coming from the building at 751 Chartres St. at 1:13 p.m., a Fire Department spokesman said.

Firefighters arrived on the scene four minutes later to find smoke coming from all three floors of the building, part of the Louisiana State Museum.

Firefighters assisted security personnel with evacuations of the first- and second-floor exhibit areas and continued up to the third-floor offices and workshop area to search for employees.

Two air conditioning chiller units were on fire on the first floor, the spokesman said. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the mechanical room, which was heavily damaged in some areas. The second and third floors sustained light smoke damage.

The fire was placed under control at 1:37 p.m. No injuries were reported.

A total of 25 Fire Department personnel were involved.

The Presbytere, originally called the Casa Curial or “Ecclesiastical House,” was built on the site of the former residence, or presbytere, of the Capuchin monks. Built between 1791 and 1813, the building was used for commercial purposes until 1834, when it became a courthouse. In 1911, it became part of the Louisiana State Museum.

The Presbytere’s two permanent exhibits deal with two contrasting sides of Louisiana’s history and culture: Carnival and Hurricane Katrina. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

The Presbytere’s even more historic twin building on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, was the site of a fire on May 11, 1988, that destroyed the third floor and damaged other parts of the building, but it was restored and reopened to the public in 1994.