Blake Pontchartrain: The oddly shaped Harmony Street house_lowres

What started as a Presbyterian church is now an apartment building.

Hey Blake,

I am reaching out to you to settle a question about a house located on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Harmony Street. A friend believes this house originally was a church and was converted into a home, an idea I find ridiculous. Was it once a church or has it always simply been an oddly shaped house?

— Camille

Dear Camille,

  Ol' Blake has the answer to your friend's prayers, or at least confirmation that the building at 3110 St. Charles Ave. was at one point in its history a church. Another nearby home once connected to the St. Charles Avenue structure has an equally rich history and some very famous current owners.

  In the 1920s, the building on the corner was Westminster Presbyterian Church. The more modern structure you see today, complete with a 42-foot cathedral ceiling, was built in 1955. It was one section of a large L-shaped property that included the church on St. Charles and a distinctive Spanish Baroque structure facing Harmony Street. It was built in 1910.

  According to a 1981 Times-Picayune article, the church closed in 1964. The property was left vacant and fell into disrepair until well-known ballet and dance instructor Harvey Hysell purchased the building and converted it into a dance studio. The son of a Methodist minister, Hysell said he felt at home in the church and spent thousands of dollars to renovate and restore the building, which opened in 1979 as the Ballet Hysell school. The school included three large dance studios, offices, dressing rooms and storage areas. Hysell also had living quarters on the property.

  In 1983, the Garden District property was sold and converted into residences. Last year, the Harmony Street home was purchased by Sugarcane Park LLC. Orleans Parish assessor's records show its mailing address is shared by Beyonce's management company. Published reports said the superstar singer and her husband Jay Z purchased the home for their frequent visits to town, including visits to Beyonce's sister, Solange Knowles, who also has a home in New Orleans.