While walking in the 600 block of Royal Street, I noticed sidewalk tiles in front of a shop spelling out the word “Lucien Caye.” Who is that and why is his name in the sidewalk?
The tiles you saw on Royal Street look a lot like the blue and white ones identifying some of our city’s historic streets, but these refer to a restaurateur. His name was Lucien Gaye, not Caye, but time and traffic have worn down the letter “G.”
The 1938 “WPA Guide to New Orleans” includes a listing for Lucien Gaye’s restaurant at 603 Royal St. “Lucien Gaye’s is a French restaurant of the bourgeois type, where good, plain French food is obtainable,” the guidebook explains. Other newspaper listings refer to “The French Restaurant” there, with Gaye as the proprietor. According to his 1941 obituary, Gaye was a native of France who came to New Orleans in 1916. The obituary said he and his wife Celina opened a Royal Street restaurant “which has been operated by them according to the European tradition of the small family cafe.”
The Carrollton Avenue building was designed by the local architectural firm Favrot and Livaudais Ltd. The facade features references to its use as a dairy, including a frieze featuring a cow’s head and bowls of milk.
According to the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carre Digital Survey, the three-story building where the restaurant was located dates to 1834. The Gaye family purchased it in 1924. Lucien Gaye’s obituary listed his residence as 605 Royal, which would have been in the adjacent building. Today it is a mix of several businesses.
More than three dozen schools have borne John McDonogh's name at some time.
By the way, you’re not the only one to have mistaken Gaye’s name. Mystery writer O’Neil De Noux, a former New Orleans Police Department detective, named one of his characters Lucien Caye. “I spied the blue and white tiles embedded in the sidewalk on Royal Street. … I saw ‘Lucien Caye,’” he explained in an interview for an online blog. The private detective character has since been featured in several of De Noux’s books.